This collection of essays spans many years. Roughly divided into fiction, criticism and a wider social analysis - these pieces are an attempt to express what I see. In literature, in film, in history and in life - I have tried to elucidate patterns, and exceptions, with some (I hope) psychological coherence.
Why Modern Anxiety? Anxiety has always been with us, but what is anxiety in a technological society? If our tolerance for sensory stimulus is finite, when do we reach breaking point in our frenetic world with its 24 hour media, its visual onslaught, its relentless material aspiration? If happiness is found in moderation, what becomes of us in a world of extremes? These are the threads that run through this collection - with an occasional glance back at more innocent times. Emily Brontë forged, arguably, the most passionate novel in literature from an ascetic daily life inconceivable to most of us, accustomed as we are to distraction. Both over and under stimulated, seduced and sedated by easy-won pleasures - are we losing the facility to reach below the surface?
Why Modern Woman? There is a focus in these pieces on the outer reaches, or extremes, of the romantic experience - impossible love, tragic love, disappointments that scar us for life. Are these ‘female’ themes, or simply attempts to describe the most human of experiences? Undoubtedly we see more writing by and about women, but after millennia of silence, of being almost entirely undocumented and without context - do we even know what a woman is? Shakespeare said there is nothing new under the sun, but perhaps a new perspective is possible - and what a weary world needs most.
I have tried to employ honesty and humor in these writings and to trace an analysis of human behavior through time, from a 16th century Spanish court to post-war Hollywood to the diets, marriages and dissatisfactions of today. A theme emerges of a changing world colliding with unchanging human nature, but, as with any theorizing at some point we must abandon our efforts to make sense - and yield to the complexity, the perversity and the unknowability of the world and of our own minds.
The absence of certain people dogs us throughout our lives. It becomes a cross for us to bear because it reappears day after day, like an imploring phantom. Places become meaningless and people, interesting as they may be, no longer measure up to our expectations. When a relationship has been cultivated, lives become interwoven in a way that is not easily forgotten, leaving a deep imprint that transforms our interior into a cavern where refuge is hard to find.
… it reappears day after day, like an imploring phantom …
Life is so strange and takes so many turns. Absence is so terrible that at times, just to keep it at bay, any type of relationship becomes acceptable.
This is what I call intelligence; knowing the depth of one’s personal weakness, the extent to which one is chained to someone and what these chains represent – mutual knowledge, love in any of its manifestations, lines of communication. I am a believer in destiny and know there is no such thing as coincidence. It is nothing but a rendezvous with destiny. You may travel to different cities, but mentally absence is impossible to escape because memories continue to haunt you. A person who does not feel the presence of another is to be pitied, because absence is unforgiving. There is a terrible struggle connected with everything that reminds one of the loved one – voices in the street, glances, words, sunrises, laughter…
In the words of Borges, “Evenings where I cherished your image, music reverberating with your presence, words from the past – would I could I smash it all to smithereens! In that ravine shall I hide my soul to flee from your absence, which shines perpetually and mercilessly like an intolerable sun, without setting? Your absence is as all-encompassing as any noose around my neck.”
Very few people free themselves from anxiety. At least Siegfried, the hero of The Ring of the Nibelungen, was born completely free from anxiety. But it was a rare privilege. Worries are the historical baggage of humankind.
As typical examples we have the company director who observes that another takes over his position because he is younger or the student who nervously counts the days until an exam that is crucial for his future. As can be seen, anxiety in itself is not abnormal; it is simply an all-embracing response by our personality when facing situations that threaten us. Subjectively, it is characterized by a state of uncertainty, apprehension, tension and helplessness when facing a threat that we perceive in a vague and imprecise form.
It is not necessary to think that everything about anxiety is negative - because in some cases, and depending on the person, it becomes a prod that drives us to attain something that really matters to us. Anguish becomes irrational, however, when we exaggerate the response, that is, when in all or in the majority of our activities we allow it to destroy our thoughts - here the matter is complicated as this extreme anxiety could easily lead us to depression or even to suicide.
... we allow it to destroy our thoughts ...
As to its origin - it has been demonstrated that anxiety has genetic roots, but to a larger extent the environment in which the individual operates influences this. That is why today’s society with its excess population, traffic, crowding, neurosis and the struggle to ‘keep up with the Joneses’ produces excessive stress on its inhabitants.