Saturday, July 20, 2019

Емпатія не дорівнює дії/ empathy

Емпатія – це здатність розуміти емоційний стан іншої людини та співпереживати їй.

Нам часто помилково здається, що людина, яка відчуває емпатію, має допомагати іншим. Але емпатія – це просто розуміння стану іншої людини, її емоцій і зменшене почуття того самого. Емпатія не дорівнює дії.

Якби ми не відчували емпатії, кожен робив би що хотів – у нас не працювали б жодні соціальні норми чи правила.

В дитинстві ми навчаємося за допомогою механізму емпатії: дивимося на батьків і намагаємося імітувати їх.

Існує теорія прив’язаності, за якою так само, як маленька дитина потребує турботи й піклування батьків, доросла людина потребує підтримки інших. І це може реалізуватися саме завдяки емпатії.

Людина може не емпатувати через порушення роботи дзеркальних нейронів, психопатію або сильні психологічні травми, які призвели до пригнічення почуттів. Наприклад, якщо батьки не дзеркалять дитину – не реагують на неї – з великою ймовірністю вона виросте неемпатичною.
Ще однією причиною може бути стрес. Наприклад, якщо в дитини батько-алкоголік, який постійно б’є її та маму, її психіка може сама себе обмежити в інтенсивності переживань і перестати розрізняти почуття, бо це нестерпно важко. Через це людина відсторонюється і може не відчувати емпатії. (см. статью)

Через емпатію ми переживаємо почуття. Якщо вони колись були занадто складними, ми намагаємося підняти наш міст емпатії (порог чувствительности?), щоб через нього з нами ніхто не зв’язувався, бо нам не хочеться постійно відчувати біль. Людина зазвичай мучиться через це, бо хоче пов’язуватися переживаннями з іншими людьми, але водночас їй важко відчувати біль.

Коли бачимо людей, які сильно емпатують іншим, ми можемо помилково вважати їх дуже добрими та милосердними, думати, що вони дуже людяні. Але треба розуміти, що такий рівень співпереживання може бути занадто деструктивним для цієї людини. Коли емпатії занадто багато, ми не можемо з нею впоратися.

За статистикою, серед волонтерів – людей, які допомагають іншим і постійно співпереживають – високий рівень емоційного вигорання. Це може відбуватися через те, що вони носять у собі дуже багато власних переживань, а натомість допомагають іншим. Це добре для суспільства, але погано для самих волонтерів, бо часто вони не розбираються з власним болем і горем.

Також надмірна емпатія може бути компенсаторним механізмом. Коли людині самій бракує підтримки та емпатії, вона вирішує бути максимально співчутливою до інших, щоб їм не було так погано, як їй.

Високий рівень емпатії може бути ознакою того, що людина наповнена власними непрожитими переживаннями, які для неї актуальні та досі відкриті.

- джерело

Thursday, July 04, 2019

If you can be heard then you exist./Britt-Marie was here

A year turned into several years, and several years turned into all the years. One morning you wake up with more life behind you than in front of you, not being able to understand how it's happened.

A few years turned into more years, and more years turned into all years. Years have a habit of behaving like that. It’s not that Britt-Marie chose not to have any expectations, she just woke up one morning and realized they were past their sell-by date.

A human being, any human being at all, has so perishingly few chances to stay right there, to let go of time and fall into the moment. And to love someone without measure, explode with passion... A few times when we are children, maybe, for those of us who are allowed to be... But after that? How many breaths are we allowed to take beyond the confines of ourselves? How many pure emotions make us cheer out loud without a sense of shame? How many chances do we get to be blessed by amnesia? All passion is childish, it's banal and naive, it's nothing we learn, it's instinctive, and so it overwhelms us... Overturns us... It bears us away in a flood... All other emotions belong to the earth, but passion inhabits the universe. That is the reason why passion is worth something. Not for what it gives us, but for what it demands that we risk ― our dignity, the puzzlement of others in their condescending shaking heads...

An unreasonable amount of paperwork is required these days just to be a human being.

If you can be heard then you exist.

All marriages have their bad sides, because people have weaknesses. If you live with another human being you learn to handle these weaknesses in a variety of ways. For instance, you might take the view that weaknesses are a bit like heavy pieces of furniture, and based on this you must learn to clean around them. To maintain the illusion. Of course the dust is building up unseen, but you learn to repress this for as long as it goes unnoticed by guests. And then one day someone moves a piece of furniture without your say-so, and everything comes into plain view. Dirt and scratch marks. Permanent damage to the parquet floor. By then it’s too late.

It’s easier to stay optimistic if you never have to clear up the mess afterwards.

Because life is more than the shoes your feet are in. More than the person you are. It's the togetherness. The parts of yourself in another. Memories and walls and cupboards and drawers with compartments for cutlery, so you know where everything is.

It takes years to know a human being. An entire lifetime. It's what makes a home a home.

The balcony boxes may look as if they only contain soil, but underneath there are flowers waiting for spring. The winter requires whoever is doing the watering to have a bit of faith, in order to believe that what looks empty has every potential. Britt-Marie no longer knows whether she has faith or just hope. Maybe neither.

It’s the silence that Britt-Marie struggles most of all to live with, because while immersed in silence you don’t know if anyone knows you are there, and winter is also the quiet season because the cold insulates people. Makes the world soundless.

Finally, out of breath, she fetches a towel from her handbag. Turns off the ceiling light in the kitchen. Sits down on one of the wooden stools in the darkness, and weeps into the towel. She doesn’t want her tears to drip onto the floor. They could leave marks.

Tickling light falls over warm duvets, like the smell of freshly brewed coffee and toasted bread. It shouldn't be doing this. It's the wrong day to be beautiful, but the dawn doesn't care.

If a human being closes her eyes hard and long enough, she can remember all the times she has made a choice in her life just for her own sake. And realize, perhaps, that it has never happened.

She misses her balcony more than anything. You’re never quite alone when you can stand on a balcony—you have all the cars and houses and the people in the streets. You’re among them, but also not. That’s the best thing about balconies.

My mother worked for the social services all her life. She always said that in the middle of all the crap, in the thick of it all, you always had a sunny story turning up. Which makes it all worthwhile.

When she realizes that they are about to fall, she summons the strength to stand on her own two feet. Because that is what women like Britt-Marie do. They find the strength when they have to do something for others.

The human brain has a monstrous ability to re-create memories of such clarity that the rest of the body loses all sense of time.

Fredrik Backman, Britt-Marie Was Here - source

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Wakefield/ unexplained mystery of human behaviour

Wakefield - by Nathaniel Hawthorne

In some old magazine or newspaper I recollect a story, told as truth, of a man – let us call him Wakefield – who absented himself for a long time from his wife. The fact, thus abstractedly stated, is not very uncommon, nor – without a proper distinction of circumstances – to be condemned either as naughty or nonsensical.
Howbeit, this, though far from the most aggravated, is perhaps the strangest, instance on record, of marital delinquency; and, moreover, as remarkable a freak as may be found in the whole list of human oddities. The wedded couple lived in London. The man, under pretence of going a journey, took lodgings in the next street to his own house, and there, unheard of by his wife or friends, and without the shadow of a reason for such self-banishment, dwelt upwards of twenty years. During that period, he beheld his home every day, and frequently the forlorn Mrs. Wakefield. And after so great a gap in his matrimonial felicity – when his death was reckoned certain, his estate settled, his name dismissed from memory, and his wife, long, long ago, resigned to her autumnal widowhood – he entered the door one evening, quietly, as from a day’s absence, and became a loving spouse till death.

What sort of a man was Wakefield? We are free to shape out our own idea, and call it by his name. He was now in the meridian of life; his matrimonial affections, never violent, were sobered into a calm, habitual sentiment; of all husbands, he was likely to be the most constant, because a certain sluggishness would keep his heart at rest, wherever it might be placed. He was intellectual, but not actively so; his mind occupied itself in long and lazy musings, that ended to no purpose, or had not vigor to attain it; his thoughts were seldom so energetic as to seize hold of words. Imagination, in the proper meaning of the term, made no part of Wakefield’s gifts. With a cold but not depraved nor wandering heart, and a mind never feverish with riotous thoughts, nor perplexed with originality, who could have anticipated that our friend would entitle himself to a foremost place among the doers of eccentric deeds?

Let us now imagine Wakefield bidding adieu to his wife. It is the dusk of an October evening. His equipment is a drab great-coat, a hat covered with an oilcloth, top-boots, an umbrella in one hand and a small portmanteau in the other. He has informed Mrs. Wakefield that he is to take the night coach into the country.
She would fain inquire the length of his journey, its object, and the probable time of his return; but, indulgent to his harmless love of mystery, interrogates him only by a look. He tells her not to expect him positively by the return coach, nor to be alarmed should he tarry three or four days; but, at all events, to look for him at supper on Friday evening. Wakefield himself, be it considered, has no suspicion of what is before him. He holds out his hand, she gives her own, and meets his parting kiss in the matter-of-course way of a ten years’ matrimony; and forth goes the middle-aged Mr. Wakefield, almost resolved to perplex his good lady by a whole week’s absence.

He is in the next street to his own, and at his journey’s end. He can scarcely trust his good fortune, in having got thither unperceived – recollecting that, at one time, he was delayed by the throng, in the very focus of a lighted lantern; and, again, there were footsteps that seemed to tread behind his own, distinct from the multitudinous tramp around him; and, anon, he heard a voice shouting afar, and fancied that it called his name. Doubtless, a dozen busybodies had been watching him, and told his wife the whole affair. Poor Wakefield! Little knowest thou thine own insignificance in this great world! No mortal eye but mine has traced thee. Go quietly to thy bed, foolish man...

It is perilous to make a chasm in human affections; not that they gape so long and wide – but so quickly close again!

The vagueness of the project, and the convulsive effort with which he plunges into the execution of it, are equally characteristic of a feeble-minded man.

The singularity of his situation must have so moulded him to himself, that, considered in regard to his fellow-creatures and the business of life, he could not be said to possess his right mind. He had contrived, or rather he had happened, to dissever himself from the world – to vanish – to give up his place and privileges with living men, without being admitted among the dead. The life of a hermit is nowise parallel to his. He was in the bustle of the city, as of old; but the crowd swept by and saw him not; he was, we may figuratively say, always beside his wife and at his hearth, yet must never feel the warmth of the one nor the affection of the other. It was Wakefield’s unprecedented fate to retain his original share of human sympathies, and to be still involved in human interests, while he had lost his reciprocal influence on them.

Amid the seeming confusion of our mysterious world, individuals are so nicely adjusted to a system, and systems to one another and to a whole, that, by stepping aside for a moment, a man exposes himself to a fearful risk of losing his place forever. Like Wakefield, he may become, as it were, the Outcast of the Universe.

* * *
Натаниэль Готорн (1804—1864) 
«Уэйкфилд» (1835)

В каком-то старом журнале или в газете я, помнится, прочел историю, выдававшуюся за истину, о том, что некий человек — назовем его Уэйкфилдом — долгое время скрывался от своей жены.
Самый поступок, отвлеченно рассуждая, не так уж удивителен, и нет основания, не разобравшись внимательно во всех обстоятельствах, считать его безнравственным или безрассудным. Тем не менее этот пример, хотя и далеко не самый худший, может быть, самый странный из всех известных случаев нарушения супружеского долга. Более того, его можно рассматривать в качестве самой поразительной причуды, какую только можно встретить среди бесконечного списка человеческих странностей. Супружеская пара жила в Лондоне. Муж под предлогом того, что он уезжает по делам, нанял помещение на соседней с его домом улице и там, не показываясь на глаза ни жене, ни друзьям (при том, что он не имел для такого рода добровольной ссылки ни малейшего основания), прожил свыше двадцати лет. В течение этого времени он каждый день взирал на свой дом и очень часто видел покинутую миссис Уэйкфилд. И после такого долгого перерыва в своем супружеском счастье — уже после того, как он считался умершим и его имущество было передано наследникам, когда имя его было всеми забыто, а жена его уже давным-давно примирилась со своим преждевременным вдовством, — он в один прекрасный вечер вошел в дверь совершенно спокойно, точно после однодневной отлучки, и вновь сделался любящим супругом уже до самой своей смерти.

Что за человек был Уэйкфилд? Мы можем вообразить его себе каким угодно и окрестить его именем созданный нами образ. Он уже прошел половину своего жизненного пути. Его супружеская любовь, никогда не бывшая слишком пламенной, охладела и превратилась в тихое, привычное чувство. Впрочем, из всех мужей на свете он, возможно, был бы одним из самых верных, ибо известная вялость характера не позволила бы ему нарушить покой, в котором пребывало его сердце. Он был по-своему мыслителем, но не очень деятельным. Его мозг был постоянно занят долгими и ленивыми размышлениями, которые ни к чему не приводили, так как для того, чтобы добиться определенных результатов, ему не хватало упорства. То, о чем он думал, редко обладало достаточной определенностью, чтобы вылиться в слова. Воображением, в истинном смысле этого слова, Уэйкфилд особенно одарен не был. Кто мог предполагать, что, обладая сердцем холодным, хотя отнюдь не развращенным или непостоянным, и умом, никогда не отличавшимся лихорадочным кипением мысли или блуждавшим в поисках решений необычных вопросов, наш друг займет одно из первых мест среди чудаков, прославившихся своими эксцентрическими поступками?

Давайте представим себе Уэикфилда в тот момент, когда он прощается со своей женой. Время — сумрачный октябрьский вечер. На нем коричневое пальто, шляпа с клеенчатым верхом, высокие сапоги, в одной руке у него зонтик, в другой — маленький саквояж. Он предупредил миссис Уэйкфилд, что уедет за город с ночным дилижансом. Она бы охотно спросила его о длительности его путешествия, о его цели и о примерном сроке возвращения. Но, снисходя к его невинной любви к таинственности, она вопрошает его только взглядом. Он говорит ей, чтобы она его не ждала обязательно с обратным дилижансом, и советует ей не волноваться, буде он задержится на лишних трое или четверо суток. Однако, во всяком случае, он просит ее дожидаться его к ужину в пятницу. Сам Уэйкфилд — и это следует подчеркнуть — не имеет ни малейшего представления о том, что его ожидает. Он протягивает ей руку, она кладет в нее свою и принимает его прощальный поцелуй как нечто само собой разумеющееся, к чему приучили ее десять лет их совместной жизни. И вот пожилой мистер Уэйкфилд уходит, и в душе у него уже почти созрел замысел смутить покой своей любезной супруги недельным отсутствием.

Он теперь находится на соседней с его собственной улице и достиг цели своего путешествия. Он едва может поверить своей удаче, что попал сюда незамеченным, вспоминая, что один раз его задержала толпа в тот момент, когда его осветил уличный фонарь; в другой раз он как будто слышал чьи-то шаги, которые преследовали его, явственно отличаясь от других бесчисленных шагов вокруг него; и, наконец, ему раз даже как будто послышался вдали чей-то голос, и голос этот звал его по имени. Несомненно, дюжина каких-то досужих людей следила за ним и доложила обо всем его жене. Бедный Уэйкфилд! Ты очень плохо представляешь себе свое собственное ничтожество в этом огромном мире. Ни один смертный, за исключением меня, не следил за тобой. Спи спокойно, глупец!

Чрезвычайно опасно разделять пропастью человеческие отношения. Не потому, что зияющая бездна с течением времени становится все шире, а потому, что она очень быстро затягивается!

Смутность намерения, равно как и судорожная поспешность его выполнения, одинаково типичны для слабохарактерного человека.

Странность его положения должна была настолько извратить всю его сущность, что если судить по его отношению к ближним и к целям человеческого существования, он и впрямь был безумцем. Ему удалось или, вернее, ему пришлось — порвать со всем окружающим миром, исчезнуть, покинуть свое место (и связанные с ним преимущества) среди живых, хоть он и не был допущен к мертвым. Жизнь отшельника никак не идет в сравнение с его жизнью. Он, как и прежде, был окружен городской сутолокой, но толпа проходила мимо, не замечая его. Он был, выражаясь фигурально, по-прежнему рядом с женой и со своим очагом, но уже никогда не ощущал более никакого тепла — ни от огня, ни от любви. Глубокое своеобразие судьбы Уэйкфилда заключалось в том, что он сохранил отпущенную ему долю человеческих привязанностей и интересов, будучи сам лишен возможности воздействовать на них.

Среди кажущейся хаотичности нашего таинственного мира отдельная личность так крепко связана со всей общественной системой, а все системы — между собой и с окружающим миром, что, отступив в сторону хотя бы на мгновение, человек подвергает себя страшному риску навсегда потерять свое место в жизни. Подобно Уэйкфилду, он может оказаться, если позволено будет так выразиться, отверженным вселенной.

Перевод В. Метальникова

см. О фильме по мотивам

Monday, June 17, 2019

Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar/ extracts, part 2

Extracts, part 2 (see part 1)

The face in the mirror looked like a sick Indian.
I dropped the compact into my pocketbook and stared out of the train window. Like a colossal junkyard, the swamps and back lots of Connecticut flashed past, one broken-down fragment bearing no relation to another.
What a hotchpotch the world was!
…The domesticated wilderness of pine, maple and oak rolled to a halt and stuck in the frame of the train window like a bad picture. My suitcase grumbled and bumped as I negotiated the long aisle.

‘Elaine sat on the breezeway in an old yellow nightgown of her mother's waiting for something to happen. It was a sweltering morning in July, and drops of sweat crawled down her back one by one, like slow insects.’
I leaned back and read what I had written.
It seemed lively enough, and I was quite proud of the bit about the drops of sweat like insects, only I had the dim impression I'd probably read it somewhere else a long time ago.

I had imagined a kind, ugly, intuitive man looking up and saying "Ah!" in an encoraging way, as if he could see something I couldn't, and then I would find words to tell him how I was so scared, as if I were being stuffed farther and farther into a black, airless sack with no way out.
Then he would lean back in his chair and match the tips of his fingers together in a little steeple and tell me why I couldn't sleep and why I couldn't read and why I couldn't eat and why everything people did seemed so silly, because they only died in the end.
And then, I thought, he would help me, step by step, to be myself again.

I circled the Public Garden […] reading the names of the trees.
My favorite tree was the Weeping Scholar Tree. I thought it must come from Japan. They understood things of the spirit in Japan.

[Doctor Gordon’s private hospital] As my mother and I approached the summer heat bore down on us, and a cicada started up, like an aerial lawnmower, in the heart of a copper beech tree at the back. The sound of the cicada only served to underline the enormous silence.
…Then I realized that none of the people were moving.
I focused more closely, trying to pry some clue from their stiff postures. I made out men and women, and boys and girls who must be as young as I, but there was a uniformity to their faces, as if they had lain for a long time on the shelf, out of the sunlight, under siftings of pale, fine dust.

Every time I tried to concentrate, my mind glided off, like a skater, into a large empty space, and pirouetted there, absently.

"How do you get into that prison?"
"You get a pass."
"No, how do you get locked in?"
"Oh," the guard laughed, "you steal a car, you rob a store."
"You got any murderers in there?"
"No. Murderers go to a big state place."
"Who else is in there?"
"Well, the first day of winter we get these old bums out of Boston. They heave a brick through a window, and then they get picked up and spend the winter out of the cold, with TV and plenty to eat, and basketball games on the weekend."
"That's nice."
"Nice if you like it," said the guard.

I hadn't counted on the beach being overrun with summer people. In the ten years of my absence, fancy blue and pink and pale green shanties had sprung up on the flat sands of the Point like a crop of tasteless mushrooms, and the silver airplanes and cigar-shaped blimps had given way to jets that scoured the rooftops in their loud off rush from the airport across the bay.
…The gulls on their wooden stilts at the tip of the bar miaowed like cats. Then they flapped up, one by one, in their ash-colored jackets, circling my head and crying.

I had a suspicion that my mother had called Jody and begged her to ask me out, so I wouldn't sit around in my room all day with the shades drawn. I didn't want to go at first, because I thought Jody would notice the change in me, and that anybody with half an eye would see I didn't have a brain in my head.
But all during the drive north, and then east, Jody had joked and laughed and chattered and not seemed to mind that I only said, "My" or "Gosh" or "You don't say.”

I wondered at what point in space the silly, sham blue of the sky turned black.

After a discouraging time of walking about with the silk cord dangling from my neck like a yellow cat's tail and finding no place to fasten it, I sat on the edge of my mother's bed and tried pulling the cord tight.
But each time I would get the cord so tight I could feel a rushing in my ears and a flush of blood in my face, my hands would weaken and let go, and I would be all right again.
Then I saw that my body had all sorts of little tricks, such as making my hands go limp at the crucial second, which would save it, time and again, whereas if I had the whole say, I would be dead in a flash.
I would simply have to ambush it with whatever sense I had left, or it would trap me in its stupid cage for fifty years without any sense at all.

I wondered, after the hanging fiasco, if I shouldn't just give it up and turn myself over to the doctors, and then I remembered Doctor Gordon and his private shock machine. Once I was locked up they could use that on me all the time.
And I thought of how my mother and brother and friends would visit me, day after day, hoping I would be better. Then their visits would slacken off, and they would give up hope. They would grow old. They would forget me.
They would be poor, too.
They would want me to have the best of care at first, so they would sink all their money in a private hospital like Doctor Gordon's. Finally, when the money was used up, I would be moved to a state hospital, with hundreds of people like me, in a big cage in the basement.
The more hopeless you were, the further away they hid you.

Against the khaki-colored sand and the green shore wavelets, his body was bisected for a moment, like a white worm. Then it crawled completely out of the green and onto the khaki and lost itself among dozens and dozens of other worms that were wriggling or just lolling about between the sea and the sky. [Andrey// Tolstoy]

So I rode the elevator up three flights to the maternity ward and reported to the head nurse. She gave me the trolley of flowers. I was supposed to put the right vases at the right beds in the right rooms.
But before I came to the door of the first room I noticed that a lot of the flowers were droopy and brown at the edges. I thought it would be discouraging for a woman who'd just had a baby to see somebody plonk down a big bouquet of dead flowers in front of her, so I steered the trolley to a washbasin in an alcove in the hall and began to pick out all the flowers that were dead.
Then I picked out all those that were dying.
There was no wastebasket in sight, so I crumpled the flowers up and laid them in the deep white basin. The basin felt cold as a tomb. I smiled. This must be how they laid the bodies away in the hospital morgue. My gesture, in its small way, echoed the larger gesture of the doctors and nurses.

Lately I had considered going into the Catholic Church myself. I knew the Catholics thought killing yourself was an awful sin. But perhaps, if this was so, they might have a good way to persuade me out of it.
… The only trouble was, Church, even the Catholic Church, didn't take up the whole of your life. No matter how much you knelt and prayed, you still had to eat three meals a day and have a job and live in the world.

I thought it odd that in all the time my father had been buried in this graveyard, none of us had ever visited him. My mother hadn't let us come to his funeral because we were only children then, and he had died in the hospital, so the graveyard and even his death had always seemed unreal to me.
I had a great yearning, lately, to pay my father back for all the years of neglect, and start tending his grave.

The graveyard disappointed me. It lay at the outskirts of the town, on low ground, like a rubbish dump, and as I walked up and down the gravel paths, I could smell the stagnant salt marshes in the distance.

Then I saw my father's gravestone.
It was crowded right up by another gravestone, head to head, the way people are crowded in a charity ward when there isn't enough space. The stone was of a mottled pink marble, like canned salmon, and all there was on it was my father's name and, under it, two dates, separated by a little dash.
At the foot of the stone I arranged the rainy armful of azaleas I had picked from a bush at the gateway of the graveyard. Then my legs folded under me, and I sat down in the sopping grass.
I couldn't understand why I was crying so hard.
Then I remembered that I had never cried for my father's death.
I laid my face to the smooth face of the marble and howled my loss into the cold salt rain.

The earth seemed friendly under my bare feet, but cold. I wondered how long it had been since this particular square of soil had seen the sun.
Then, one after the other, I lugged the heavy, dust-covered logs across the hole mouth. The dark felt thick as velvet. I reached for the glass and bottle, and carefully, on my knees, with bent head, crawled to the farthest wall.
Cobwebs touched my face with the softness of moths.

I felt the darkness, but nothing else, and my head rose, feeling it, like the head of a worm. Someone was moaning. Then a great, hard weight smashed against my cheek like a stone wall and the moaning stopped.
The silence surged back, smoothing itself as black water smooths to its old surface calm over a dropped stone.
A cool wind rushed by. I was being transported at enormous speed down a tunnel into the earth. Then the wind stopped. There was a rumbling, as of many voices, protesting and disagreeing in the distance. Then the voices stopped.
A chisel cracked down on my eye, and a slit of light opened, like a mouth or a wound, till the darkness clamped shut on it again. I tried to roll away from the direction of the light, but hands wrapped round my limbs like mummy bands, and I couldn't move.

The boy looked at me as if I were some exciting new zoo animal and he was about to burst out laughing. … He didn't really know me, either. He just wanted to see what a girl who was crazy enough to kill herself looked like.

I wanted to tell her that if only something were wrong with my body it would be fine, I would rather have anything wrong with my body than something wrong with my head, but the idea seemed so involved and wearisome that I didn't say anything. I only burrowed down further in the bed.

I knew I should be grateful to Mrs. Guinea, only I couldn't feel a thing. If Mrs. Guinea had given me a ticket to Europe, or a round-the-world cruise, it wouldn't have made one scrap of difference to me, because wherever I sat — on the deck of a ship or at a street café in Paris or Bangkok — I would be sitting under the same glass bell jar, stewing in my own sour air.

"I was going to kill myself, mind you. I said 'If this doctor doesn't do the trick, that's the end.' Well, the receptionist led me down a long hall, and just as we got to the door she turned to me and said, 'You won't mind if there are a few students with the doctor, will you?' What could I say? 'Oh no,' I said. I walked in and found nine pairs of eyes fixed on me. Nine! Eighteen separate eyes.
"Now, if that receptionist had told me there were going to be nine people in that room, I'd have walked out on the spot.
….
"He folded his hands together and looked at me and said, 'Miss Gilling, we have decided that you would benefit by group therapy.' "
"Group therapy?" I thought I must sound phony as an echo chamber, but Joan didn't pay any notice.
"That's what he said. Can you imagine me wanting to kill myself, and coming round to chat about it with a whole pack of strangers, and most of them no better than myself. . ."
"That's crazy." I was growing involved in spite of myself. "That's not even human."

The walls were bright, white lavatory tile with bald bulbs set at intervals in the black ceiling. Stretchers and wheelchairs were beached here and there against the hissing, knocking pipes that ran and branched in an intricate nervous system along the glittering walls.

And she set something on my tongue and in panic I bit down, and darkness wiped me out like chalk on a blackboard.

"No, it was his family I liked."
"You mean Mr. and Mrs. Willard?"
"Yes." Joan's voice slid down my spine like a draft. "I loved them. They were so nice, so happy, nothing like my parents. I went over to see them all the time," she paused, "until you came."

"I don't see what women see in other women," I'd told Doctor Nolan in my interview that noon. "What does a woman see in a woman that she can't see in a man?"
Doctor Nolan paused. Then she said, "Tenderness." That shut me up.

In spite of my profound reservations, I thought I would always treasure Joan. It was as if we had been forced together by some overwhelming circumstance, like war or plague, and shared a world of our own.

…I have never really cared for cold beer in midwinter, but I accepted the glass to have something solid to hold on to

Massachusetts would be sunk in a marble calm. I pictured the snow flaky, Grandma Moses villages, the reaches of swampland rattling with dried cattails, the ponds where frog and horn pout dreamed in a sheath of ice, and the shivering woods.
But under the deceptively clean and level slate the topography was the same, and instead of San Francisco or Europe or Mars I would be learning the old landscape, brook and hill and tree. In one way it seemed a small thing, starting, after a six months' lapse, where I had so vehemently left off.

"We'll take up where we left off, Esther," she [the mother] had said, with her sweet, martyr's smile. "Well act as if all this were a bad dream."
A bad dream.
To the person in the bell jar, blank and stopped as a dead baby, the world itself is the bad dream.
A bad dream.
I remembered everything.

Valerie's last, cheerful cry had been "So long! Be seeing you."
"Not if I know it," I thought.
But I wasn't sure. I wasn't sure at all. How did I know that someday — at college, in Europe, somewhere, anywhere — the bell jar, with its stifling distortions, wouldn't descend again?

Then, behind the coffin and the flowers and the face of the minister and the faces of the mourners, I saw the rolling lawns of our town cemetery, knee-deep in snow now, with the tombstones rising out of it like smokeless chimneys.
There would be a black, six-foot-deep gap hacked in the hard ground. That shadow would marry this shadow, and the peculiar, yellowish soil of our locality seal the wound in the whiteness, and yet another snowfall erase the traces of newness in Joan's grave.
I took a deep breath and listened to the old brag of my heart.
I am, I am, I am.

The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

...an hour here or there...

She steps forward. She does not remove her shoes. The water is cold, but not unbearably so. She pauses, standing in cold water up to her knees. She thinks of Leonard. She thinks of his hands and his beard, the deep lines around his mouth.
...
Standing knee-deep in the moving water, she decides against it. The voices are here, the headache is coming, and if she restores herself to the care of Leonard and Vanessa they won't let her go again, will they? She decides to insist that they let her go. She wades awkwardly (the bottom is mucky) out until she is up to her waist. She glances upriver at the fisherman, who is wearing a red jacket and who does not see her. The yellow surface of the river (more yellow than brown when seen this close) murkily reflects the sky. Here, then, is the last moment of true perception, a man fishing in a red jacket and a cloudy sky reflected on opaque water. Almost involuntarily (it feels involuntary, to her) she steps or stumbles forward, and the stone pulls her in. For a moment, still, it seems like nothing; it seems like another failure; just chill water she can easily swim back out of; but then the current wraps itself around her and takes her with such sudden, muscular force it feels as if a strong man has risen from the bottom, grabbed her legs and held them to his chest. It feels personal.
...
She is borne quickly along by the current. She appears to be flying, a fantastic figure, arms outstretched, hair streaming, the tail of the fur coat billowing behind. She floats, heavily, through shafts of brown, granular light. She does not travel far. Her feet (the shoes are gone) strike the bottom occasionally, and when they do they summon up a sluggish cloud of muck, filled with the black silhouettes of leaf skeletons, that stands all but stationary in the water after she has passed along out of sight. Stripes of green-black weed catch in her hair and the fur of her coat, and for a while her eyes are blindfolded by a thick swatch of weed, which finally loosens itself and floats, twisting and untwisting and twisting again.

She comes to rest, eventually, against one of the pilings of the bridge at Southease. The current presses her, worries her, but she is firmly positioned at the base of the squat, square column, with her back to the river and her face against the stone. She curls there with one arm folded against her chest and the other afloat over the rise of her hip. Some distance above her is the bright, rippled surface. The sky reflects unsteadily there, white and heavy with clouds, traversed by the black cutout shapes of rooks. Cars and trucks rumble over the bridge. A small boy, no older than three, crossing the bridge with his mother, stops at the rail, crouches, and pushes the stick he's been carrying between the slats of the railing so it will fall into the water. His mother urges him along but he insists on staying awhile, watching the stick as the current takes it.

Here they are, on a day early in the Second World War: the boy and his mother on the bridge, the stick floating over the water's surface, and Virginia's body at the river's bottom, as if she is dreaming of the surface, the stick, the boy and his mother, the sky and the rooks.

*
“These days, Clarissa believes, you measure people first by their kindness and their capacity for devotion. You get tired, sometimes, of wit and intellect; everybody's little display of genius.”

*
“I remember one morning getting up at dawn. There was such a sense of possibility. You know, that feeling. And I... I remember thinking to myself: So this is the beginning of happiness, this is where it starts. And of course there will always be more...never occurred to me it wasn't the beginning. It was happiness. It was the moment, right then.”

*
“She thinks of how much more space a being occupies in life than it does in death; how much illusion of size is contained in gestures and movements, in breathing. Dead, we are revealed in our true dimensions, and they are surprisingly modest.”

*
“She'd never imagined it like this-when she thought of someone (a woman like herself) losing her mind, she'd imagined shrieks and wails, hallucinations; but at that moment it had seemed clear that there was another way, far quieter; a way that was numb and hopeless, flat, so much so that an emotion as strong as sorrow would have been a relief.”

*
“What does it mean to regret when you have no choice?”

*
“We throw our parties; we abandon our families to live alone in Canada; we struggle to write books that do not change the world, despite our gifts and our unstinting efforts, our most extravagant hopes. We live our lives, do whatever we do, and then we sleep. It's as simple and ordinary as that. A few jump out windows, or drown themselves, or take pills; more die by accident; and most of us are slowly devoured by some disease, or, if we're very fortunate, by time itself. There's just this for consolation: an hour here or there when our lives seem, against all odds and expectations, to burst open and give us everything we've ever imagined, though everyone but children (and perhaps even they) know these hours will inevitably be followed by others, far darker and more difficult. Still, we cherish the city, the morning; we hope, more than anything, for more. Heaven only knows why we love it so...”

― Michael Cunningham, The Hours

см. также

Monday, May 20, 2019

травма родины и травма эмиграции/ Dm. Bykov

Дмитрий Быков:
Артемий Троицкий все написал правильно, водораздел действительно проходит по линии «уехал/остался». Другое дело, какой это водораздел. Это вовсе не граница между свободными и рабами, патриотами и космополитами, трусами и смельчаками — нет, это просто граница между теми, кто выбрал травму эмиграции, и теми, кто предпочел травму родины.
Ахматова мечтала уехать и летом 1917 года просила Гумилева в довольно-таки униженном, хотя и достойном письме помочь ей с отъездом. С этим не вышло, и начался авторский миф — «Но равнодушно и спокойно руками я замкнула слух»… О возможности и желательности отъезда она говорила и потом — см. «Меня, как реку…», — но понимала и то, что в случае отъезда, думая об оставшихся, «узнала бы я зависть наконец». Наиболее жестокую и безупречную по-человечески формулировку нашла она в 1961 году:

Так не зря мы вместе бедовали,
Даже без надежды раз вздохнуть.
Присягнули — проголосовали
И спокойно продолжали путь.

Не за то, что чистой я осталась,
Словно перед Господом свеча,
Вместе с вами я в ногах валялась
У кровавой куклы палача.

Нет! и не под чуждым небосводом,
И не под защитой чуждых крыл —
Я была тогда с моим народом,
Там, где мой народ, к несчастью, был.

В том, чтобы валяться в ногах у кровавой куклы палача, нет никакого особенного патриотизма; в том, чтобы быть со своим народом, нет никакой особенной доблести. В большинстве биографий отъезд или неотъезд был делом случая. Кто-то, как Мандельштам, сам себя соблазняет и отговаривает — «Недалеко до Смирны и Багдада, но трудно плыть, а звезды всюду те же». Кто-то, как Куприн, случайно уехал, долго раскаивался и вернулся. Кто-то, как Блок, умер до того, как было получено разрешение на отъезд.

Все было, все, ничего нового не выдумаешь. Я лишен даже утешения повторять — типа я был тогда с моим народом, — потому что ни с каким народом я отродясь не был и, оставаясь в России (что не мешает мне периодически преподавать за границей), я вовсе к народу не принадлежу. Да и вообще это термин не для XXI столетия.

Saturday, May 04, 2019

этот лесной мир, образ которого я собственными средствами как бы приподнял.../ Forest - Nabokov, The Gift

...войдем со мной в лес. Смотри: сначала — сквозистые места, с островками чертополоха, крапивы или царского чая, среди которых попадаются отбросы: иногда даже рваный матрац со сломанными ржавыми пружинами, — не брезгуй ими! Вот — темный, частый ельничек, где однажды я набрел на ямку (бережно вырытую перед смертью), в которой лежал, удивительно изящно согнувшись, лапы к лапам, труп молодой, тонкомордой собаки волчьих кровей. А вот — голые, без подлеска, только бурыми иглами выстланные, бугры под простоватыми соснами, с протянутым гамаком, наполненным чьим-то нетребовательным телом, — и проволочный остов абажура валяется тут же на земле. Дальше — песчаная проплешина, окруженная акациями, и там, на горячем, сером, прилипчивом песке, сидит, протянув страшные босые ноги, в одном белье женщина и штопает чулок, а около нее возится младенец, с почерневшими от пыли пашками. Со всех этих мест еще видна проезжая аллея, пробегающий блеск автомобильных радиаторов, — но стоит проникнуть немного глубже, и лес выправляется, сосны облагораживаются, под ногами хрустит мох, и кто-нибудь, безработный бродяга, непременно тут спит, прикрыв лицо газетой: философ предпочитает мох розам. Вот точное место, где на днях упал небольшой аэроплан: некто, катая свою даму по утренней лазури, перерезвился, потерял власть над рулем и со свистом, с треском нырнул прямо в сосняк. Я пришел, к сожалению, с опозданием: обломки успели убрать, два полицейских верхами ехали шагом к дороге, — но еще был заметен отпечаток удалой смерти под соснами, одна из коих была сверху донизу обрита крылом, и архитектор Штокшмайсер с собакой объяснял няне с ребенком, что произошло, — а еще через несколько дней всякие следы пропали (только желтела рана на сосновом стволе), и уже в полном неведении на этом самом месте двое, старик и его старуха, она — в лифчике, он — в подштанниках, делали друг перед другом несложную гимнастику.

Дальше становилось совсем хорошо: сосны входили в полную силу, и между розоватыми чешуйчатыми стволами низкая перистая листва рябин и крепкая зелень дубов оживленно дробили полосоватость борового солнца. В густоте дуба, если смотреть снизу, взаимное перекрытие листьев теневых и освещенных, темно-зеленых и ярко-изумрудных, казалось особенным сцеплением их волнистых краев, и на них садилась, то нежа в блеске свой рыжий шелк, то плотно складывая крылья, вырезная ванесса, с белой скобочкой на диком исподе, и, вдруг снявшись, садилась ко мне на голую грудь, привлеченная человеческим потом. А еще выше, над моим запрокинутым лицом, верхи и стволы сосен сложно обменивались тенями, и хвоя напоминала водоросли, шевелящиеся в прозрачной воде. И если еще больше запрокинуться, так, чтобы сзади трава (неизъяснимо, первозданно-сызнова позеленевшая, — с этой точки перевернутого зрения) казалась растущей куда-то вниз, в пустой прозрачный свет, и была бы верхом мира, я улавливал ощущение, которое должно поразить перелетевшего на другую планету (с другим притяжением, другой плотностью, другим образом чувств) — особенно, когда проходила вверх ногами семья гуляющих, причем шаг их становился толчком упругим и странным, а подброшенный мяч казался падающим — всё тише — в головокружительную бездну.
При дальнейшем продвижении вперед, — не налево, куда бор простирался без конца, и не направо, где он прерывался молоденьким березняком, свежо и по-детски попахивавшим Россией, — лес становился опять реже, терял подсед, обрывался по песчаным косогорам, и внизу зажигалось столбами света широкое озеро. Солнце разнообразно озаряло противоположные скаты, и, когда от наплыва облака воздух смежался, как великое синее веко, и медленно прозревал опять, один берег всегда отставал от другого, в порядке постепенного потухания и просветления. Песчаной каймы на той стороне почти не было, деревья все вместе спускались к густым тростникам, а повыше можно было найти горячие, сухие склоны, поросшие кашкой, кислицей и молочаем, отороченные живой тьмой дубов и буков, валом валивших вниз, в сырые ложбинки, в одной из которых застрелился Яша Чернышевский.

Когда я по утрам приходил в этот лесной мир, образ которого я собственными средствами как бы приподнял над уровнем тех нехитрых воскресных впечатлений (бумажная дрянь, толпа пикникующих), из которых состояло для берлинцев понятие «Груневальд»; когда в эти жаркие, летние будни я направлялся в его южную сторону, в глушь, в дикие, тайные места, я испытывал не меньшее наслаждение, чем если бы в этих трех верстах от моей Агамемнонштрассе находился первобытный рай.

Владимир Набоков. Дар (1938)

Monday, April 29, 2019

Защитная корка бесчувственности/ L. Petranovskaya on the concept of containing

В продолжение темы

Если в основе личности – прочный, как из титана, стержень убеждения «я существую и это хорошо», человек гораздо меньше зависит от внешней оценки. Стрелы критики, осуждения не разрушат его. А значит, будучи спокойным за свою безопасность на самом глубинном уровне, взрослый человек сможет отнестись к критике разумно, что-то принять, что-то отвергнуть, виноват – исправить и принести извинения, сделать выводы на будущее.
Критика воспринимается как субъективное суждение другого человека, которое может быть как верным, так и ошибочным, как важным, так и не имеющим особого значения. То же и с положительной оценкой, похвалой. Она приятна, но не остро необходима, в самые потаенные глубины личности не проникает, не существует такой похвалы, которая была бы сильнее и важней той базовой убежденности «я хороший», усвоенной в младенчестве.

А если титанового основания, прочного позитивного отношения к себе нет?
Тогда критика, особенно от близких или значимых людей воспринимается как угроза личности в целом, как послание мира: «Ты недостаточно хорош. Лучше бы тебя не было». И хотя разум понимает, конечно, что критика сама по себе не может убить, отменить, вышвырнуть их жизни, подсознательно осуждение воспринимается как смертный приговор. Стоит ли удивляться, что человек в этом случае не может извлечь из критики пользу, он будет либо обороняться любой ценой, как раненый гладиатор, не церемонясь в средствах, нападая и раня в ответ, либо опять же любой ценой избегать всякой активности, впадать в паралич, чтобы не рисковать совершить ошибку.
Как ни странно, похвала тоже не идет впрок: она либо крайне смущает, воспринимается мучительно, поскольку всегда кажется «незаслуженной». «неискренней», либо превращается в необходимый допинг, и тогда человеком легко можно управлять с помощью лести и комплиментов. И то, и другое в жизни встречается, и, увы, чаще, чем хотелось бы. А в самых тяжелых случаях принимает форму болезненной зависимости от оценок окружающих – нарциссического расстройства личности.

Сколько их вокруг нас, людей, которые словно не уверены, что существуют, что они в мире по праву? Не обязательно бывших сирот, но почти всегда обделенных в свое время вниманием и принятием самых значимых в своей жизни людей.

Мы просыпаемся среди ночи от рева мотоцикла, который без глушителя несется по спящим улицам города. Что заставляет ездока так агрессивно сообщать миру о своем существовании, почему в другой способ заявить о себе он не верит?
Мы видим толпы людей, на кастингах в глупые телешоу, людей, готовых утратить на потеху публики не только приватность, но и чувство собственного достоинства – только ради того, чтобы «круто попасть на ТВ» и, появившись на тысячах экранов, хоть на время поверить, что они существуют.
Сколько мелодрам заканчиваются хэппи-эндом, который состоит в том, что герой видит себя на первых полосах газет – только после такого радикального подтверждения социумом своего существования он начинает верить в себя, в свое право жить и быть таким, какой есть.
Сколько людей бесконечно постят в соцсетях фото и отчеты о каждом своем дне, о любой детали своей жизни, словно без ответных лайков не вполне уверены, что у них и правда есть лицо, фигура, машина, дача, кошка, ребенок и пирог с ягодами на десерт. Помните, еще у Гоголя: «Передайте государю императору, что есть на свете такие Добчинский и Бобчинский»…

Конечно, позитивное отзеркаливание не заканчивается в младенчестве, мы продолжаем и дальше давать ребенку понять, что он любим, важен, что мы рады его присутствию в нашей жизни. Потребность в таком «теплом душе» может вновь обостряться в кризисные периоды жизни, в периоды тяжелых испытаний или возрастных трудностей, например, в подростковом возрасте. В эти момент ребенку вновь бывает очень важно увидеть в глазах родителя, услышать в его словах понимание, одобрение и безусловное принятие, чтобы вновь убедиться: «я существую – и это хорошо».

Защитная корка бесчувственности

Что происходит, если ребенка не контейнируют**? Стресс вот он, нервы напряжены, боль от разочарования, от неудачи, от падения, от испуга никуда не девается. Поплакать не получается: за это ругают или не обращают внимания, оставляют одного со стрессом.
Помощи нет. Что же делать?
Никто не берет меня на ручки, мне приходится брать себя в руки, самому становиться контейнером для себя. Для взрослого это нормально, мы все так и поступаем в большинстве случаев. Но у малыша ресурса для того, чтобы действительно позаботиться о себе, нет. Способность заботиться о себе не падает с неба – она формируется как результат заботы, полученной от других. Если меня не контейнировали, как я начну, где научусь?

[Термин «контейнирование» известен благодаря психологам — популяризаторам теории привязанности. Когда ребенок не может справиться со своими эмоциями, родитель должен помочь ему их пережить: успокоить, выслушать и объяснить, что это за чувства. По сути, контейнирование — это вбирание эмоций ребенка и помощь в их переживании. И родители, которые сознательно подходили к воспитанию детей, так всегда и делали: жалели ребенка и были с ним рядом, когда ему трудно.
...«Контейнирование» - способность человека не раниться, не разрушаться от собственных переживаний.]

И как же быть?
Можно научиться не чувствовать. Отрастить защитный панцирь. Можно натренироваться и притерпеться к боли, не воспринимать ее. Если я маленький ребенок, который сам не может о себе позаботиться – это единственный выход для меня – диссоциация, отсоединение от чувств. Я ничего не чувствую, я не в контакте с собой. Если называть вещи своими именами, это значит, что я немножко мертвый.
Все живые существа делают это: если опасность явно превышает возможности справиться с ней, можно притвориться мертвым – и так попробовать пережить стресс. В жизни есть ситуации, когда это разумно, очень стрессовые, очень опасные, когда лучше всего «отморозиться», впасть в диссоциацию, чтобы пережить ужас. Но если это не временная стратегия, а постоянная, то это означает быть немножко неживым, одеть на себя броню, уже неснимаемую. Теперь я спокоен и не расстраиваюсь. Удобно, не так ли? Всё нипочем. Больно – не плачу. Плохо – не пожалуюсь. Побьют, обидят – подумаешь, а мне все равно. Я справлюсь, я не раскисаю, я держу себя в руках – всю жизнь.

Кстати, возможно, это объясняет причину типичной ссоры супругов: жена жалуется на какие-то проблемы, ей нужны утешение и поддержка, а муж вместо этого начинает давать советы и предлагать решения. Возможно, дело вовсе не в том, что «мужчины с Марса, а женщины с Венеры», а все проще: мальчикам на порядок чаще отказывают в контейнировании, чем девочкам. Они все детство слышат: «не реви, ты же не девчонка, разберись сам, дай сдачи». Их не контейнировали – и они не могут, не включается бессознательное поведение.
В лучшем случае получается осознанно, через голову, после того, как прочли книжку с советом: не объясняй ей, в чем причина проблемы и что она должна сделать, просто обними и скажи, что все будет хорошо. А проблему она решит сама – либо скажет тебе, чем ты можешь помочь.

Возможно, и большее число сердечно-сосудистых заболеваний у мужчин тоже отчасти объясняется тем, что им с детства было сложнее перейти от мобилизации к принятию и печали. В культурах, где мужские слезы не считаются постыдными, нет такой резкой разницы в продолжительности жизни между мужчинами и женщинами.

Если ребенку не помогают перейти от плана А (мобилизации) к плану Б (печали и расслаблению), он, по сути, остается в незавершенном, не нашедшем выхода усилии и напряжении. Стресс «запирается» в психике, поэтому иногда «панцирь» вдруг дает трещину, и из него вырываются протуберанцы неконтролируемой ярости, пугая всех вокруг. И если ярость ребенка – это просто неприятная проблема, то ярость взрослого, обросшего панцирем, может быть серьезной угрозой для окружающих. Не думаю, что родители, растящие детей под девизом «соберись, не распускай нюни», хотят именно этого, но получается вот так.

Не лучше выглядит и вариант, при котором ребенок, не надеясь на помощь взрослых, просто отказывается преодолевать барьеры, не переходит даже к плану А, капитулирует сразу. Остаться в тисках стресса одному так мучительно, что лучше даже не начинать мобилизацию, сдаться сразу.

Это часто становится очень серьезной проблемой у детей, которые провели первые годы жизни без семьи, в учреждении. Даже многие годы спустя, уже давно обретя родителей и совершенно забыв свой сиротский опыт, они легко капитулируют при малейших трудностях, избегают напряжения, готовы все бросить и расплакаться даже при одной мысли о том, что у них что-то может не получиться.

Страхи вырастить неженку, которая не сможет справляться с жизненными невзгодами, необоснованны. Перестараться с контейнированием невозможно, никто не останется сидеть в психологической утробе всю жизнь, там вообще-то скучно. Как только ребенок восстановится, он немедленно выскочит из нее и побежит дальше.

Нам кажется, что тот, кто закален невзгодами с детства, будет лучше справляться с ними и потом. Это не так. Исследования показывают, что лучше справляются с трудностями те, у кого было счастливое детство и благополучная семья. Их психика имеет запас прочности, в стрессе она сохраняет способность быть гибкой и изобретательной, они обращаются за помощью и способны утешиться сами. А те, кому уже в детстве досталось, и они вынуждены были справляться со страхом и болью без помощи родителей, напротив, крайне остро реагируют на стресс, сваливаются либо в агрессию, либо в отчаяние.

Л. Петрановская, из книги «Тайная опора: привязанность в жизни ребенка»

I felt sorry when I came to the last page/ The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath

It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs, and I didn't know what I was doing in New York. I'm stupid about executions. The idea of being electrocuted makes me sick, and that's all there was to read about in the papers — goggle-eyed headlines staring up at me on every street corner and at the fusty, peanut-smelling mouth of every subway. It had nothing to do with me, but I couldn't help wondering what it would be like, being burned alive all along your nerves.
I thought it must be the worst thing in the world.
New York was bad enough. By nine in the morning the fake, country-wet freshness that somehow seeped in overnight evaporated like the tail end of a sweet dream. Mirage-gray at the bottom of their granite canyons, the hot streets wavered in the sun, the car tops sizzled and glittered, and the dry, cindery dust blew into my eyes and down my throat.

Only I wasn't steering anything, not even myself. I just bumped from my hotel to work and to parties and from parties to my hotel and back to work like a numb trolleybus.

Great white bearskins lay about underfoot, and the only furniture was a lot of low beds covered with Indian rugs. Instead of pictures hung up on the walls, he had antlers and buffalo horns and a stuffed rabbit head. Lenny jutted a thumb at the meek little gray muzzle and stiff jackrabbit ears.
"Ran over that in Las Vegas."

The two of them didn't even stop jitterbugging during the intervals. I felt myself shrinking to a small black dot against all those red and white rugs and that pine paneling. I felt like a hole in the ground.

The mirror over my bureau seemed slightly warped and much too silver. The face in it looked like the reflection in a ball of dentist's mercury. I thought of crawling in between the bed sheets and trying to sleep, but that appealed to me about as much as stuffing a dirty, scrawled-over letter into a fresh, clean envelope. I decided to take a hot bath.

I opened the door and blinked out into the bright hall. I had the impression it wasn't night and it wasn't day, but some lurid third interval that had suddenly slipped between them and would never end.
Doreen was slumped against the doorjamb. When I came out, she toppled into my arms. I couldn't see her face because her head was hanging down on her chest and her stiff blonde hair fell down from its dark roots like a hula fringe.

The sight of all the food stacked in those kitchens made me dizzy. It's not that we hadn't enough to eat at home, it's just that my grandmother always cooked economy joints and economy meat loafs and had the habit of saying, the minute you lifted the first forkful to your mouth, "I hope you enjoy that, it cost forty-one cents a pound," which always made me feel I was somehow eating pennies instead of Sunday roast.

I'd discovered, after a lot of extreme apprehension about what spoons to use, that if you do something incorrect at table with a certain arrogance, as if you knew perfectly well you were doing it properly, you can get away with it and nobody will think you are bad-mannered or poorly brought up. They will think you are original and very witty.
I learned this trick the day Jay Cee took me to lunch with a famous poet. He wore a horrible, lumpy, speckled brown tweed jacket and gray pants and a red-and-blue checked open-throated jersey in a very formal restaurant full of fountains and chandeliers, where all the other men were dressed in dark suits and immaculate white shirts.
This poet ate his salad with his fingers, leaf by leaf, while talking to me about the antithesis of nature and art. I couldn't take my eyes off the pale, stubby white fingers traveling back and forth from the poet's salad bowl to the poet's mouth with one dripping lettuce leaf after another. Nobody giggled or whispered rude remarks. The poet made eating salad with your fingers seem to be the only natural and sensible thing to do.

"I'm very interested in everything." The words fell with a hollow flatness on to Jay Cee's desk, like so many wooden nickels.

Physics made me sick the whole time I learned it. What I couldn't stand was this shrinking everything into letters and numbers. Instead of leaf shapes and enlarged diagrams of the holes the leaves breathe through and fascinating words like carotene and xanthophyll on the blackboard, there were these hideous, cramped, scorpion-lettered formulas in Mr. Manzi's special red chalk.
I knew chemistry would be worse, because I'd seen a big chart of the ninety-odd elements hung up in the chemistry lab, and all the perfectly good words like gold and silver and cobalt and aluminum were shortened to ugly abbreviations with different decimal numbers after them.

She looked terrible, but very wise.

Mrs. Guinea answered my letter and invited me to lunch at her home. That was where I saw my first fingerbowl.
The water had a few cherry blossoms floating in it, and I thought it must be some clear sort of Japanese after-dinner soup and ate every bit of it, including the crisp little blossoms. Mrs. Guinea never said anything, and it was only much later, when I told a debutante I knew at college about the dinner, that I learned what I had done.

...the streets were gray and fuming with rain. It wasn't the nice kind of rain that rinses you clean, but the sort of rain I imagine they must have in Brazil. It flew straight down from the sky in drops the size of coffee saucers and hit the hot sidewalks with a hiss that sent clouds of steam writhing up from the gleaming, dark concrete.

I hate Technicolor. Everybody in a Technicolor movie seems to feel obliged to wear a lurid costume in each new scene and to stand around like a clotheshorse with a lot of very green trees or very yellow wheat or very blue ocean rolling away for miles and miles in every direction. [//Salinger's Holden]

There is nothing like puking with somebody to make you into old friends.

The next thing I had a view of was somebody's shoe.
It was a stout shoe of cracked black leather and quite old, with tiny air holes in ascalloped pattern over the toe and a dull polish, and it was pointed at me. It seemed to be placed on a hard green surface that was hurting my right cheekbone.
I kept very still, waiting for a clue that would give me some notion of what to do. A little to the left of the shoe I saw a vague heap of blue cornflowers on a white ground and this made me want to cry. It was the sleeve of my own bathrobe I was looking at, and my left hand lay pale as a cod at the end of it.
"She's all right now."
…I listened with interest. The floor seemed wonderfully solid. It was comforting to know I had fallen and could fall no farther.

The room hovered around me with great gentleness, as if the chairs and the tables and the walls were withholding their weight out of sympathy for my sudden frailty.

[about tips] I hate handing over money to people for doing what I could just as easily do myself, it makes me nervous.

I flipped through one story after another until finally I came to a story about a fig tree.
This fig grew on a green lawn between the house of a Jewish man and a convent, and the Jewish man and a beautiful dark nun kept meeting at the tree to pick the ripe figs, until one day they saw an egg hatching in a bird's nest on a branch of the tree, and as they watched the little bird peck its way out of the egg, they touched the backs of their hands together, and then the nun didn't come out to pick figs with the Jewish man any more but a mean-faced Catholic kitchen maid came to pick them instead and counted up the figs the man picked after they were both through to be sure he hadn't picked any more than she had, and the man was furious.
I thought it was a lovely story, especially the part about the fig tree in winter under the snow and then the fig tree in spring with all the green fruit. I felt sorry when I came to the last page. I wanted to crawl in between those black lines of print the way you crawl through a fence, and go to sleep under that beautiful big green fig tree.

Now, lying on my back in bed, I imagined Buddy saying, "Do you know what a poem is, Esther?"
"No, what?" I would say.
"A piece of dust."
Then just as he was smiling and starting to look proud, I would say, "So are the cadavers you cut up. So are the people you think you're curing. They're dust as dust as dust. I reckon a good poem lasts a whole lot longer than a hundred of those people put together."
And of course Buddy wouldn't have any answer to that, because what I said was true. People were made of nothing so much as dust, and I couldn't see that doctoring all that dust was a bit better than writing poems people would remember and repeat to themselves when they were unhappy or sick and couldn't sleep.

Buddy told me Will was a third-year man and had to deliver eight babies before he could graduate.
Then he noticed a bustle at the far end of the hall and some men in lime-green coats and skull caps and a few nurses came moving toward us in a ragged procession wheeling a trolley with a big white lump on it.
"You oughtn't to see this," Will muttered in my ear. "You'll never want to have a baby if you do. They oughtn't to let women watch. It'll be the end of the human race."
Buddy and I laughed, and then Buddy shook Will's hand and we all went into the room.
I was so struck by the sight of the table where they were lifting the woman I didn't say a word. It looked like some awful torture table, with these metal stirrups sticking up in mid-air at one end and all sorts of instruments and wires and tubes I couldn't make out properly at the other.
Buddy and I stood together by the window, a few feet away from the woman, where we had a perfect view.
The woman's stomach stuck up so high I couldn't see her face or the upper part of her body at all. She seemed to have nothing but an enormous spider-fat stomach and two little ugly spindly legs propped in the high stirrups, and all the time the baby was being born she never stopped making this unhuman whooing noise.
Later Buddy told me the woman was on a drug that would make her forget she'd had any pain and that when she swore and groaned she really didn't know what she was doing because she was in a kind of twilight sleep.
I thought it sounded just like the sort of drug a man would invent. Here was a woman in terrible pain, obviously feeling every bit of it or she wouldn't groan like that, and she would go straight home and start another baby, because the drug would make her forget how bad the pain had been, when all the time, in some secret part of her, that long, blind, doorless and windowless corridor of pain was waiting to open up and shut her in again.

As soon as the baby was born the people in the room divided up into two groups, the nurses tying a metal dog tag on the baby's wrist and swabbing its eyes with cotton on the end of a stick and wrapping it up and putting it in a canvas-sided cot, while the doctor and Will started sewing up the woman's cut with a needle and a long thread.
I think somebody said, "It's a boy, Mrs. Tomolillo," but the woman didn't answer or raise her head.
"Well, how was it?" Buddy asked with a satisfied expression as we walked across the green quadrangle to his room.
"Wonderful," I said. "I could see something like that every day.

Then he just stood there in front of me and I kept staring at him. The only thing I could think of was turkey neck and turkey gizzards and I felt very depressed.
…Then we kissed and hugged a while and I felt a little better.

… I felt happier than I had been since I was about nine and running along the hot white beaches with my father the summer before he died.

I remember Jody, my best and only girlfriend at college

I tried to imagine what it would be like if Constantin were my husband.
It would mean getting up at seven and cooking him eggs and bacon and toast and coffee and dawdling about in my nightgown and curlers after he'd left for work to wash up the dirty plates and make the bed, and then when he came home after a lively, fascinating day he'd expect a big dinner, and I'd spend the evening washing up even more dirty plates till I fell into bed, utterly exhausted.
This seemed a dreary and wasted life for a girl with fifteen years of straight A's, but I knew that's what marriage was like, because cook and clean and wash was just what Buddy Willard's mother did from morning till night, and she was the wife of a university professor and had been a private school teacher herself.
Once when I visited Buddy I found Mrs. Willard braiding a rug out of strips of wool from Mr. Willard's old suits. She'd spent weeks on that rug, and I had admired the tweedy browns and greens and blues patterning the braid, but after Mrs. Willard was through, instead of hanging the rug on the wall the way I would have done, she put it down in place of her kitchen mat, and in a few days it was soiled and dull and indistinguishable from any mat you could buy for under a dollar in the five and ten.
And I knew that in spite of all the roses and kisses and restaurant dinners a man showered on a woman before he married her, what he secretly wanted when the wedding service ended was for her to flatten out underneath his feet like Mrs. Willard's kitchen mat.
Hadn't my own mother told me that as soon as she and my father left Reno on their honeymoon — my father had been married before, so he needed a divorce – my father said to her, "Whew, that's a relief, now we can stop pretending and be ourselves"? — and from that day on my mother never had a minute's peace.
I also remembered Buddy Willard saying in a sinister, knowing way that after I had children I would feel differently, I wouldn't want to write poems any more. So I began to think maybe it was true that when you were married and had children it was like being brainwashed, and afterward you went about numb as a slave in some private, totalitarian state.

Mr. Willard drove me up to the Adirondacks.
It was the day after Christmas and a gray sky bellied over us, fat with snow. I felt overstuffed and dull and disappointed, the way I always do the day after Christmas, as if whatever it was the pine boughs and the candles and the silver and gilt-ribboned presents and the birch-log fires and the Christmas turkey and the carols and the piano promised never came to pass.
At Christmas I almost wished I was a Catholic.
First Mr. Willard drove and then I drove. I don't know what we talked about, but as the countryside, already deep under old falls of snow, turned us a bleaker shoulder, and as the fir trees crowded down from the gray hills to the road edge, so darkly green they looked black, I grew gloomier and gloomier.

The color scheme of the whole sanatorium seemed to be based on liver. Dark, glowering woodwork, burnt-brown leather chairs, walls that might once have been white but had succumbed under a spreading malady of mold or damp. A mottled brown linoleum sealed off the floor.
On a low coffee table, with circular and semicircular stains bitten into the dark veneer, lay a few wilted numbers of Time and Life. I flipped to the middle of the nearest magazine. The face of Eisenhower beamed up at me, bald and blank as the face of a fetus in a bottle.

"Remember how you asked me where would I like to live best, the country or the city?"
"And you said. . ."
"And I said I wanted to live in the country and in the city both?"
Buddy nodded.
"And you," I continued with sudden force, "laughed and said I had the perfect setup of a true neurotic and that that question came from some questionnaire you'd had in psychology class that week?"
Buddy's smile dimmed.
"Well, you were right. I AM neurotic. I could never settle down in either the country OR the city."
…"Neurotic, ha!" I let out a scornful laugh. "If neurotic is wanting two mutually exclusive things at one and the same time, then I'm neurotic as hell. I'll be flying back and forth between one mutually exclusive thing and another for the rest of my days."

Then I remembered that at medical school Buddy had won a prize for persuading the most relatives of dead people to have their dead ones cut up whether they needed it or not, in the interests of science. I forget what the prize was, but I could just see Buddy in his white coat with his stethoscope sticking out of a side pocket like part of his anatomy, smiling and bowing and talking those numb, dumb relatives into signing the postmortem papers.

A dispassionate white sun shone at the summit of the sky. I wanted to hone myself on it till I grew saintly and thin and essential as the blade of a knife.

I didn't want my picture taken because I was going to cry. I didn't know why I was going to cry, but I knew that if anybody spoke to me or looked at me too closely the tears would fly out of my eyes and the sobs would fly out of my throat and I'd cry for a week. I could feel the tears brimming and sloshing in me like water in a glass that is unsteady and too full.
…I stared through the frieze of rubber-plant leaves in Jay Cee's window to the blue sky beyond. A few stagey cloud puffs were traveling from right to left. I fixed my eyes on the largest cloud, as if, when it passed out of sight, I might have the good luck to pass with it.

When I lifted my head, the photographer had vanished. Jay Cee had vanished as well. I felt limp and betrayed, like the skin shed by a terrible animal. It was a relief to be free of the animal, but it seemed to have taken my spirit with it, and everything else it could lay its paws on.
I fumbled in my pocketbook for the gilt compact with the mascara and the mascara brush and the eyeshadow and the three lipsticks and the side mirror. The face that peered back at me seemed to be peering from the grating of a prison cell after a prolonged beating. It looked bruised and puffy and all the wrong colors. It was a face that needed soap and water and Christian tolerance.

It dazzled and danced with light like a heavenly ice cube. I slipped it quickly into my imitation jet bead evening bag and looked around. The faces were empty as plates, and nobody seemed to be breathing.

Sylvia Plath - The Bell Jar

see Extracts from the book - part 2

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

peace of mind at nights and a bit of ordinary cheerfulness in the day

Katya? said Mrs. Mercer beginning to side away the breakfast things. I don’t remember any Katya. I don’t remember you telling me about a Katya.
I tell you everything, he said. I’ve always told you everything.
Not Katya you haven’t.

What worried Mrs. Mercer suddenly took shape. Into the little room came a rush of ghosts. She sat down opposite him and both felt cold.
That Katya, she said.
Yes, he said. They’ve found her in the ice.
I see, said Mrs Mercer. After a while she said: I see you found your book.
Yes, he said. It was behind the pickles. You must have put it there.
I suppose I must, she said.
It was an old Cassell’s. There were words in the letter, in the handwriting, he could not make out and words in the dictionary he could hardly find, in the old Gothic script; still, he had understood.
Years since I read a word of German, he said. Funny how it starts coming back to you when you see it again.
I daresay, said Mrs Mercer. The folded cloth lay between them on the polished table.
It’s this global warming, he said, that we keep hearing about.
What is? she asked.
Why they’ve found her after all this time. - Though he was the one with the information his face seemed to be asking her for help with it.
The snow’s gone off the ice, he said. You can see right in. And she’s still in there just the way she was.
I see, said Mrs Mercer.
She would be, wouldn’t she, he added, when you come to think about it.
Yes, said Mrs Mercer, when you come to think about it I suppose she would.

Again, with his face and with a slight lifting of his mottled hands he seemed to be asking her to help him comprehend.
Well, she said after a pause during which she drew the cloth towards her and folded it again and then again. Can’t sit here all day. I’ve got my club.
Yes, he said. It’s Tuesday. You’ve got your club.
She rose and made to leave the room but halted in the door and said: What are you going to do about it?
Do? he said. Oh nothing. What can I do?

All day in a trance. Katya in the ice, the chaste snow drawn off her.

He cut himself shaving, stared at his face, tried to fetch out the twenty-year-old from under his present skin. Trickle of blood, pink froth where it entered the soap.
He tried to see through his eyes into wherever the soul or spirit or whatever you call it lives that doesn’t age with the casing it is in.
The little house oppressed him. There were not enough rooms to go from room to room in, nowhere to pace.
He looked into the flagstone garden but the neighbours either side were out and looking over.
It drove him only in his indoor clothes out and along the road a little way to where the road went down suddenly steeply and the estate of all the same houses was redeemed by a view of the estuary, the mountains and the open sea.
He stood there thinking of Katya in the ice. Stood there so long the lady whose house he was outside standing there came out and asked: Are you all right, Mr Mercer?
Fine, he said, and saw his own face mirrored in hers, ghastly.
I’m too old, he thought. I don’t want it all coming up in me again. We’re both of us too old. We don’t want it all welling up in us again.
But it had begun.

His unease was palpable. Whether to stand or sit, whether to speak or not. Two or three times he shrugged. In the end he managed to say: Where was the trip then?
Prestatyn, she answered brightly. We went to Prestatyn.
You always enjoy your trips, he said.
Yes, she said, I wouldn’t miss a Tuesday trip if I could help it.
He had lapsed away again.
How old was she? Mrs. Mercer asked.
Same age as you, he answered. Nearly to the day. I told you, you’re both Virgo.

So quiet that house was in the night, so quiet all the other little homes around it were that held the elderly in them and the old alone or still in couples sleeping early, waking, lying awake and thinking about the past. So much past every night in the silence settling over those houses that all looked much the same on a hillside creeping up against the rock and gorse and tipping down to the river where it widened, widened and ended in the sea.

Whatever is in there behind the eyes or around the heart or wherever else it is, whatever it is that is not the husk of us will cease when the husk does but in the meantime never ages, does it?
In the night, in the utter silence of the nights among those little houses where old people live, she felt him leave the bed and in the pitch-black reach his dressing gown and leave the room. She let him go. How it troubled her, all this. Not much to ask, peace of mind at nights and a bit of ordinary cheerfulness in the day, some conversation, something to laugh about and doing nobody any harm. And not all this.
A slit of light came on under the bedroom door.

One thing I didn’t tell you, Mr. Mercer said next morning after a quieter night though sleepless mostly, open-eyed and thinking.
Oh? said Mrs. Mercer. You made an appointment at the doctor’s, I hope.
Yes, he said. This afternoon. I was thinking in the night one thing I never told you. Never told anyone come to that. Not a living soul. Nobody ever knew. I’m the only one in the world who knows it even now, only one alive, I mean.
Well? Mrs. Mercer said.
She was going to have a baby. My Katya was.
More and more slowly Mrs. Mercer went on with her toast and homemade damson jam. He sat, turning over his empty hands. His face, she knew, had she confronted it, was looking at her with its puzzled and pleading look, the eyes behind the glasses rather washed out.
I suppose I thought it might upset you at the time.
I see, she said after a while when her mouth had given up trying to eat. I suppose you would think that.
Then she took her own things to the draining board and left him sitting there with his.

The ladder to the loft was permanently down, encumbering the way into the little living room. A breath of cold hung over the opening. Or the warmth of their living space, being drawn up there, was converted into cold just above their heads. He was often up there, rooting around. In the mechanism of her love and duty she called him down when his meal was on the table. But also at nights he went up there and she heard him moving and muttering over the bedroom ceiling. Then she wept to herself, for the unfairness. Surely to God it wasn’t much to ask, that you get through to the end and looking back you don’t fill with horror and disappointment and hopeless wishful thinking? All she wanted was to be able to say it hasn’t been nothing, it hasn’t been a waste of time, the fifty years, that they amount to something, if not a child, a something made and grown between man and wife you could be proud of and nearly as substantial as a child. And now all this: him burrowing back though the layers, him rooting through all their accumulations, to get back where he wanted to be, in the time before she was.
Once with a bitterness that twisted her mouth as if the question were vinegar she asked: How far gone was she?
Six weeks, Mr. Mercer answered. We worked it out it would be about six weeks.

"In Another Country" by David Constantine
(Из рассказа английского писателя Дэвида Константайна «В другой стране»; в качестве иллюстраций - кадры из фильма по мотивам рассказа)

Monday, April 22, 2019

Christopher Hitchens: We too are “animals,” whose claim to the “dominion” looks increasingly dubious.

Almost as an afterthought I will venture to predict a quite different renaissance for “Animal Farm”. Recent advances in the study of our genome have shown how much we possess in common with other primates and mammals, and perhaps especially with pigs (from whom we can receive skin and even organ transplants). In Orwell’s own time the idea of “animal rights” let alone “animal liberation” would have seemed silly or fanciful, but these now form part of our ever-expanding concept of rights, and bring much thought-provoking scientific discovery to bear. We too are “animals,” whose claim to the “dominion” awarded us in the Book of Genesis looks increasingly dubious. In that grand discussion, this little book will probably earn itself an allegorical niche.


Christopher Hitchens (April 23, 1949–December 15, 2011),
an introduction to a 2010 edition of George Orwell’s Animal Farm,
which was later included in Hitchens’s posthumously published essay collection “Arguably”.


- source

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Begin afresh, afresh, afresh...


The Trees

The trees are coming into leaf
Like something almost being said;
The recent buds relax and spread,
Their greenness is a kind of grief.

Is it that they are born again
And we grow old? No, they die too.
Their yearly trick of looking new
Is written down in rings of grain.

Yet still the unresting castles thresh
In fullgrown thickness every May.
Last year is dead, they seem to say,
Begin afresh, afresh, afresh.

Philip Larkin,
June 1967


Thursday, March 07, 2019

про родину/ about motherland



«Когда государство начинает убивать людей, оно всегда называет себя родиной».
(Дюрренматт «Ромул Великий»)



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