Before mercury, my blood used to fill thermometers.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Usual Division.

We are all doomed to be actors, in the sense that our abilities and deficiencies will guide us, in certain ways if not in others, to becoming active participants in a productive society, whether we like that society or not. Alas, we will be participants even if we hate it: terrorism, which will not tolerate a passive audience, is already part of the show. But to palliate that condition, we are nowadays much more free to be thinkers than is commonly supposed. The usual division is to treat our daily job as the adventure and our cultural diversions as a mere mechanism of renewal and repose. But the adventurous jobs are becoming more predictable all the time, even at the level of celebrity and conspicuous material success. Could there be anything less astonishing than to work day and night on Wall Street to make the millions that will buy the Picasso that will hang on the wall of our Upper East Side apartment to help convince us and our guests that we are lucky to know each other? I have been in that apartment, and admired the Picasso, and envied its owner: I especially envied him his third wife, who had the same eyes as Picasso’s second mistress, although they were on different sides of her nose. But I didn’t envy the man his job. In the same week, I was filming in Greenwich Village, and spent an hour of down-time sitting in a cafe making my first acquaintance with the poetry of Anthony Hecht. I couldn’t imagine living better.

-  Clive James, Cultural Amnesia: Necessary Memories from History and the Arts

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