September 5, 2014
It is hard work to do nothing. I’m always filling my day with things to do, to avoid the nothing. Once I wake up in the morning, there are the few minutes of dread where nothing is happening. I’m trying to set my mind on what the day will be like. I check my calendar, and like a lot of people, I’m obsessed with making lists. If I have less than five things to do that day, I feel depressed. Then slowly the feeling of guilt that you should be producing something, even if it’s not important. I open up my computer and look at the blank screen. Nothing is happening. I then look out my front window, facing Waverly Drive, and I see no one. Usually there are people walking their dogs at this time in the morning, but alas, I see only a fat furry cat walking down the sidewalk by he or her self. A dog when is either on a leash or free from it, always walks without a purpose or direction. A cat walks going to a specific direction in mind, and is rarely side-tracked by anything, unless someone approaches it. There is one moment which becomes tense, when I see the cat walk behind a parked car, and I wonder if I will see it again exiting that car. The moment I see the cat again, I feel a sense of relief. He or she then enters into an opening of the bush, and disappears.
For me, there is no feeling of the cat being cute, or beautiful. I simply like to see it walking down the sidewalk with a sense of purpose or plan. This actually inspires me to get back to my writing. There is a piece of music that causes me a great deal of anxiety and it’s John Cage’s “4’33.” It has a strict format where the piano player sits behind his keyboard and doesn’t play anything for the duration of four minutes and thirty-three seconds. People think this is a work of silence, but in fact it is totally the opposite of silence. When you are in a concert hall or theater “hearing” this piece, you are immediately aware of the sounds around you - perhaps a nervous cough, a clearing of the throat, a fart, or the fear of making a farting noise, air conditioner, heating vent, shuffling of feet, and so forth.
When I write I need consistent sound around me. Either music or outside ambient sounds, for instance traffic noise, as well as a child screaming down the block from me. Each sound is like someone hitting me with an live electric wire, which gets my brain to jump. I work in a lonely place, which is pretty much my head. This is no longer a bad thing at all. To actually feel the space between yours truly and the world is an area that I can measure and fill up images with, but I also can subtract imagery as well. The thing is you just have to control the noise around you, and something like “4’33” is actually chaos. Because you can’t really control the noise level or silence in one’s life. So setting everything aside, you sit there for “4’33” in quietness that is impossible, and also the anxiety or blissfulness knowing that things will happen again at 4 minutes and thirty-four seconds. It has a beginning and an end.
It’s very work-orientated. We usually have 8 hours a day to work. Within those 8 hours, we have two fifteen minutes breaks, and usually an half-n-hour lunch. Or it could be an hour lunch. Nevertheless this sets a schedule for the entire day that one can’t really question or get out of, unless you call in sick. Or like me, unemployed. When you don’t have a job, you’re facing a series of moments that cannot be filled. So one is left with the anxiety of confronting ‘nothing.' Drinking is a very simple way of dealing with the sense of time wasting away. Because at least you are taking something that sort of comments on time passing, and you reflect on the failure or happiness of those moments.
I’m trying to do away with my vices, so I just focus on being on the entrance to nothing. I want to face that void, and be contented with the blankness that will come upon me. That, hasn’t happened yet. I remember seeing a performance by Yves Klein called “Monotone-Silence Symphony” in New York, and what the piece consists of is an orchestra of 70 musicians and singers performing a D major chord for 20 minutes, followed by 20 minutes of silence. The members of the orchestra are instructed not to move and just sit on their seats. It’s a tougher piece than “4’33” because we know that the silence will last exactly 20 minutes. So one is getting around 16 minutes of more silence. But we do get the contrast between sound and silence in this work. I have met someone who went to one of the performances and felt that the work failed, because the silence part was not done properly.
Daniel Moquay, who is in charge of the Yves Klein archive and estate was quoted regarding a performance of the piece that took place in a Parisian church: ““The door of the church was open, and a pigeon came in and sat where everyone could see him,” he said. “During the 20-minute silence, he did not move at all. It was kind of incredible. And then when the silence was over, he left. ”