Wednesday, 9 April 2008


It is a peculiarity of mine to enjoy the conversation of a type of person who could be described as the vagrant philosopher or intellectual tramp. One such vagrant I knew had forgotten his name and past to the point where he wasn't sure if he'd ever had one to forget in the first place. I suggested he award himself some new name, but he felt this would be an act of intellectual pretentiousness and desisted. He was a man of depth, honour and alcoholism and spoke of his life and hopes thus:

My life is the holiest of art forms. Out of the vertiginous infinity of the possible, I attempt to achieve the solidification of life's multi-dimensional kinetic energies within the purest, simplest form of the actual. In the modern chaos of swarming humanity, unreality and reality mingle fatally; the physical actuality of human action is directed by worlds of mental perversion.
A senseless chaos reigns. On the throne of existence sits a demented demiurge of more than dubious intent. Actions exist in this kingdom of the unwell, but the thoughts behind these actions are fabrications of deviant idiocy. Salvation is needed, and I must make of myself a vessel of truth into whom truth will flow in its undiluted purity, from which will flow healing waters of divine reality on unhappy and misled mankind. I must become a still point of authenticity in the sea of teeming madness.

His redeeming mission was a constant, but the details of its form evolved. He told me that his ultimate artistic wish was to perform an ongoing succession of identical days: of sleeping in the same burnt out car, rising at the same astronomical time(relating to day-night ratios rather than "the artificial abstraction of Newtonian mechanical time"), eating the same foodstuffs daily, reading the same passages of the same books( the Gospel of John and Russell Hoban's 'Riddley Walker' were mentioned). Also walking the same pathways, drinking the same type alcohol- here he spoke quickly and aggressively as if ashamed, but also as if daring one to the criticise and censure.

Some time later I met him, and while he had suffered setbacks with his mission, yet he spoke with the fervour unique to the inspired or insane. He had managed to replicate to nigh on perfection the physical details of his days, but these he now saw were the mere details of the automaton. The inner world of his thoughts also needed to be enmeshed in this sacrifice of recurrence, but they thwarted his ambitions, refused to obey his conscious will, and darted in a million devious directions as if taunting him.
When lying in a drunken despair, pondering a watery death, the answer came to him. He had been thinking as a mere element of time, a point in a historical progression. What was needed to attain the ideal form was the the purest revolution of absolute silence, the complete absence of words and thought. This in turn would necessitate the total avoidance of all human contact which would otherwise certainly destabilise the ritualistic performance. He must go somewhere where solitude would be certain. He he was under no illusions as to the difficulty of his task- "man's greatest and most arduous achievement" as he described it- but he hoped it would be helped by his isolation. That through lack of human contact and refinement of the inner world, the very faculty of language would atrophy and depart his mind.

He took to travelling the country in search of the right place to dwell, and while he told me he had found the spot he refused to say where, for fear I might descend uninvited and destroy the precise repetitions of the life-ritual. I have not seen him in some months.
I'm not making any grand claims for this man; he is a relatively typical example of the vagrant philosophers I have known over the years. Incidentally, he bore an uncanny resemblance to Manet's Absinthe Drinker below.

1 comment:

elberry said...

Sounds like Jonathan of Living Outside Time, but he's in Kuwait.