Sunday, 11 September 2011

The myth of the beautiful corpse.

There's one false idol that I fall for again and again... the imagery and the myth of the beautiful corpse. Let me explain. You read something and the words are so beautiful and they paint a picture that seems to capture everything you didn't even know you felt, sentiments like newly discovered colours, words you want to cover your skin with. A written portrait, maybe, of something completely mundane in an unexpected medium, or else something grand and sweeping about everything and nothing. I'm a pretentious fuck, I'm under no illusion and I won't attempt to deny it. But to give context (I don't want to add to the title of 'pretentious fuck' with 'patronising fuck' so bear with me), I think it's like a lot of people seem to get when they put on Capital FM- I think it's a more pretentious form of the compulsion to post Taylor Swift or Rihanna lyrics as a facebook status.

The type of words I fall for are almost always laced with something somewhat melancholy, I suppose it's no coincidence that those are the words I connect with. And at the end, there's always the realisation, then evidenced, that whoever wrote such beauty must have suffered. I'm not sure why, but it's almost always the case. I don't know whether beauty in this form is synonymous with suffering, but throughout literary history and, I suppose, art history, too (although art is not something I'm even going to pretend to know anything about. I can't even colour in the lines, which I'd like to pretend is due to a rebellious streak, but is in fact due to me being a bit crap at everything), the people creating such beauty as I'm writing about, are usually those who are suffering or who have suffered- the line at which it passes is a necessary blur in perpetuating the myth- usually at the mercy of a chemical imbalance; some sort of mental distress or other. And so this kind of suffering, addiction and compulsion and so forth, is suddenly ascribed value and everything is upside down. What was before a simple fight for better, to BE better and to GET better, becomes an argument between a melancholic beauty, an inexplicably arrogant idea of the world's glory only being realised by those suffering; and the world of the rest- the world of the grey. Simply, to not fight becomes a very real option.

Of course, it can't end well, it's not a fight that can ever be worn when put into those terms. You fight, you enter the grey. Theoretically, you could dance for so long in the melancholy, churning out beauty at the sacrifice of all that makes you human and then enter the grey later on, but that relies on a control akin to asking the tides to change. Or you become a martyr to the cause, a superior to those who chose not to suffer- a beautiful corpse unmarred by mediocrity.

But no, wait. This is the myth, the illusion, the falsity of the idol. Not all suffering produces beauty. In fact, from experience, all suffering produces in the moment is, well, suffering. The darkest days have no words and absolutely no beauty; any possible creativity comes later, after the fight, with hindsight, where the expected grey world becomes brighter than anything the suffering offered. But this is the danger of the myth and where I often fall- when the dark seems all encompassing, the credibility of a world where to suffer is to bring colour can't be brought into refute, for fear of exposing the lie. There are the times when to fight is harder than to accept the fate of the mythical beautiful corpse. When the superiority of the suffering ideal is needed to feed the self that is starved of worth.

Perhaps you thought this was obvious, but let me say it anyway... there is NO beauty in becoming a martyr to the cause of beauty. In any form, whatever beauty may have been amassed is automatically annulled by the loss of the most beautiful thing- life. Whether it's a temporary loss due to the suffering, or a permanent loss to becoming a 'beautiful corpse' (put now in inverted commas because I think I've disproved the notion), there can be no beauty. There's no glamour, no poetry, in any of it.

3 comments:

  1. Honest to god, this is exactly how you're writing makes me feel.
    Explained it down to a tee, Isn't that ironic?

    I love you.

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  2. Well leeeeeet me tell you, I'm not suffering so much now. I have dark days, that I never write on. And dark-ish days, that I do sometimes write on. And days that aren't too bad, which I sometimes write on too... It's never the suffering that does the writing. I love you, too! xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

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  3. This part.

    "You read something and the words are so beautiful and they paint a picture that seems to capture everything you didn't even know you felt, sentiments like newly discovered colours, words you want to cover your skin with. A written portrait, maybe, of something completely mundane in an unexpected medium, or else something grand and sweeping about everything and nothing."

    I didn't mean anything about writing behind pain, I meant seeing new things and feeling new things. You're talented in more than being a piss'ed, init.

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