Read The Stream of Life Online

Authors: Clarice Lispector

The Stream of Life (9 page)

BOOK: The Stream of Life
4.68Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

But I also want to paint a theme, I want to create an object. And that object will be . . . wardrobe, for what is there that's more concrete? I have to study the wardrobe before I paint it. What do I see? I see that the wardrobe seems penetrable because it has a door. But when you open it, you see that you've merely delayed penetration: for inside there's another wood surface, like a closed door. A wardrobe's function: to keep transvestites in the dark. Its nature: that of the inviolability of things. Its relation to people: they look at themselves in the mirror inside the door, they always see themselves in bad light because the wardrobe is never in a good place: it stands awkwardly where it fits, always hulking, hunchback, timid and clumsy, not knowing how to be more discreet, because it has too much presence. A wardrobe is enormous, intrusive, sad, kindly.

But behold, the mirror-door opens—and behold, in the movement of the door, and in the new composition of the room in shadow, into this composition enter bottles and bottles made of glass of an elusive clarity.

Now I can paint the wardrobes essence. The essence that's never
But I want to have the freedom to say things without connection, as a profound way of reaching you. The errant alone attracts me, and I love sin, the flower of sin.

But what can I do if you aren't sympathetic to my faults, while I have loved yours? You crushed my candor. You didn't love me, that I know. I was alone. Apart from you. I write to no one and an improvisation that doesn't exist is being created. I've unglued myself from myself.

And I want disarticulation, for only in it am I myself in the world. Only in it do I feel well.

Feel well. I, in my solitude, am almost going to explode. Dying must be a mute, internal explosion. The body can no longer stand being a body. And what if dying tastes like food when you're really hungry? And if dying is a pleasure, a selfish pleasure?

Yesterday I was having coffee and I heard the maid who was hanging clothes on the line singing a wordless melody. A very plaintive tune. I asked her whose tune it was and she said: "it's just my own foolishness, it isn't anybody's."

Yes, what I'm writing you isn't anybody's. And that nobody's freedom is very dangerous. It's like the infinite that has the color of air.

All this that I'm writing is as hot as a hot egg that you quickly pass back and forth from hand to hand so you won't burn yourself—I've painted an egg. And now, as in my painting, all I say is: "egg," and that's enough.

No, I was never modern. And the following happens: a painting becomes for me when it strikes me as odd. And when a word strikes me as odd, that's when it takes on meaning. And when life strikes me as odd, that's where life begins. I take care not to exceed myself. There is in all this a great restraint. And then I become sad, just so I can rest. I come to cry, tamed by sadness. Then I get up and begin again. The only reason I'm not going to tell you a story now is because in this case it would be prostitution. And I don't write to please you. Primarily to please myself. I have to walk the pure line and keep my

Now I shall write you everything that comes to my mind with the least possible policing. It's just that I feel attracted by the unknown. But as long as I have myself I'll not be alone. It's going to start in: I'm going to capture the present in each dying phrase. Now:

Oh, if I knew it was like this I would not have been born. Oh, if I knew I would not have been born. Madness is a close neighbor to the cruelest wisdom. This is a brainstorm and one sentence barely relates to the next. I swallow the madness that is not madness—it's something else. Do you understand me? But I'm going to have to stop because I'm so very tired that only death would relieve me of this weariness. I'm going now.

I'm back. Now I'll try to catch up again with what happens to me in the moment-and that way I'll create myself. It's like this:

The ring you gave me was made of glass and it broke and love ended. But sometimes in its place there comes the beautiful hatred of those who loved each other and who devoured each other. The chair in front is an object for me. Useless while I'm looking at it. Tell me, please, what time it is so I'll know that I'm living right now. I'm finding myself in my very self: and this is fatal because only death will complete me. But I'll hold out to the end. I'll tell you a secret- life is fatal. I'm going to have to interrupt everything to tell you the following: death is the impossible and the intangible. To such an extent is death only a future event that there are those who can't stand it and commit suicide. It's as if life said the following: and there simply wasn't any following. Only the colon, waiting. We keep this secret in muteness to hide the fact that every instant is fatal. The object-chair interests me. I love objects insofar as they do not love me. But if I don't understand what I write the fault isn't mine. I have to speak because speaking saves. But I have no word to say. What would a person say to himself in the madness of candor? But it would be salvation. Even though the terror of candor may come from the part of the shadows that connect me to the world and to the creative unconscious of the world. Tonight there are many stars in the sky. It's stopped raining. I'm blind. I open my eyes wide and I merely see. But the secret—that I neither see nor feel. Could I be having here a real orgy behind thought? an orgy of words? The record player is broken. I look at the chair and this time it's as if it too had looked and seen. The future is mine— while I'm living. I see the flowers in the vase. They're wild- flowers that were born without having been planted. They're yellow. But my cook said: "What ugly flowers." Only because it's difficult to love what's common. Behind my own thought is the truth that is the world's. The illogic of nature. What silence. "God" is such an enormous silence that it terrifies me. Who could have invented the chair? You need courage to write what comes to me: one never knows what could come and frighten. The sacred monster has died. In its place was born a girl orphaned of her mother. I know full well that I must stop. Not for lack of words but because these things, and above all the ones I think and don't write—are not said. I'm going to speak of what's called experience. It's the experience of asking for help and having help given. Perhaps it's worth it to have been born in order one day to mutely implore and mutely receive. I asked for help and it was not denied me. I felt then as if I were a tiger with a fatal arrow nailed into its flesh and that I was slowly stalking fearful people to discover who would have the courage to come close and relieve it of its pain. And then there's a person who knows that a wounded tiger is only as dangerous as a child. And approaching the beast without being afraid to touch it, the person pulls out the embedded arrow.

And the tiger? It can't thank you. So I pace slowly back and forth in front of the person and hesitate. I lick one of my paws and then, since it's not the word that's important anymore, I silently move away.

What am I in this instant? I'm a typewriter making the dry keys echo in the dark, humid dawn. I haven't been human for a long time. They wanted me to be an object. I am an object. An object dirty with blood. An object that creates other objects and the machine creates us all. It makes demands. Mechanisms make endless demands on my life. But I don't totally obey: if I have to be an object, let me be an object that screams. There's something inside of me that hurts. Oh, how it hurts and how it screams for help. But tears aren't there in the machine that is me. I'm an object without a destiny. I'm an object in whose hands? such is my human destiny. What saves me is the scream. I protest in the name of what's inside the object behind the behind of the thought-feeling. I'm an urgent object.

Now . . . silence and light terror.

Because today, July 25, at five in the morning, I fell into a state of grace.

It was a sudden sensation, but extremely soft. Luminosity smiled in the air: precisely that. It was the world sighing. I don't know how to explain it, in the same way that you don't know how to describe the dawn to a blind man. It's unsayable, what happened to me in a sense form: I need your empathy right now. Feel with me. It was a supreme happiness.

But if you've already known the state of grace you'll recognize what I'm going to say. I'm not referring to inspiration, which is a special grace that so often comes to those who labor at art.

The state of grace I refer to isn't used for anything. It's as if it came only so one would know that it really exists and that the world exists. In that state, beyond the tranquil happiness that irradiates from people and things, there's a clarity that I call lightness only because in grace everything is so light. It's a clarity of someone who doesn't have to guess anymore: who knows, effortlessly. Just that, who knows. Don't ask me what, because I can only repeat in the same way, it's known.

And there's a sense of physical well-being that's comparable to nothing else. The body is transformed into a gift. And one feels it's a gift because one is experiencing, directly from the source, the suddenly unquestionable gift of miraculously and materially existing.

Everything takes on a kind of halo that's not imaginary: it comes from the splendor of the mathematical irradiation of things and from the memory of people. One comes to feel that everything that exists breathes and exhales a very fine splendor of energy. The truth of the world, however, is impalpable.

It isn't even remotely like what I faintly imagine the state of grace of the saints to be. I've never known that state and I can't even guess at it. It's simply the grace of a common person who suddenly transforms it into something real because it's common and human and recognizable.

Discoveries, in this sense, are unsayable and un- communicable. And unthinkable. That's why, when the state of grace came over me, I remained seated, quiet, silent. It's like an annunciation. Not preceded by angels, however. But it's as if the angel of life came to announce the world to me.

Then, slowly, I came out of it. It wasn't as if I'd been in a trance—there is no trance—one comes out slowly, with a sigh of someone who had everything just as everything is. It's a sigh of longing, too. For having experienced the attaining of a body and a soul, one wants more and more. It's useless to want: it only comes when it wishes to, spontaneously.

I wanted to make that happiness eternal through the objectification of the word. Immediately afterward, I went to the dictionary to look up the word "beatitude," which I detest as a word, and I saw that it means pleasure of the soul. It speaks of tranquil happiness—I however would call it transport or levitation. I also don't like the way the dictionary definition reads: "a state of someone absorbed in mystical contemplation." That's not it. I wasn't meditating at all, there was no religiousness in me. I had just finished my coffee and I was simply living, sitting there with a cigarette burning down in the ashtray.

I saw when it started and took hold of me. And I saw when it subsided and ended. I'm not lying. I hadn't taken drugs and it wasn't a hallucination. I knew who I was and who the others were.

But now I want to see if with you I can capture what happened to me using words. When I use them, I'll be destroying a little of what I felt—but it's inescapable. I'm going to call what follows "At the Edge of Beatitude." It starts like this, very slowly:

When one sees, the act of seeing has no form—what one sees sometimes has form, sometimes not. The act of seeing is ineffable. And sometimes what is seen is also ineffable. And it thus becomes a certain kind of thought- feeling that I'll call "freedom," just to give it a name. Real freedom, as an act of perception, has no form. And since true thought thinks itself, that type of thought attains its object in the act of thinking itself. By this I don't mean that it does so vaguely or gratuitously. What it is is that primary thought—as an act of thought—which already has form and is most easily transmitted to itself, or better, to the very person who is thinking it; and for that reason—because it has form—it has a limited reach. While the thought called "freedom" is free as an act of thought. It's free to the degree that to the very person doing the thinking this thought seems authorless.

True thought seems authorless.

And beatitude has that same mark. Beatitude begins at the moment when the act of thinking frees itself from the need for form. Beatitude begins at the moment thought-feeling has gone beyond the author's need to think—he doesn't need to think anymore and he now finds himself close to the grandeur of nothingness. One could also say of "everything." But "everything" is quantity, and quantity has limits at its very outset. True incommensurability is nothingness, which has no barriers and is where a person can spread out her thought-feeling.

That beatitude is not in itself either lay or religious. And all this does not necessarily imply the problem of the existence or nonexistence of God. What I'm saying is that mankind's thought and the way that thought-feeling can reach an extreme degree of incommunicability—which, without sophistry or paradox—is at the same time, for man, the point of greatest communicability. He communicates with himself.

Sleeping brings us very close to this empty and nevertheless full thought. I'm not speaking of the dream that, in this case, would be a primary thought. I'm speaking about sleep. Sleeping is abstracting oneself and scattering into nothingness.

I want to tell you, too, that after the freedom of a state of grace there also comes the freedom of imagination. At this very moment I'm free.

And beyond freedom, beyond a certain emptiness, I create musical waves, very calm and repetitious. The madness of free invention. Do you want to see with me? The landscape where this music occurs? air, green stalks, the extended sea, silence of Sunday morning. A thin man with one foot has one enormous transparent eye in the middle of his forehead. A female creature, approaching on all fours, speaks with a voice that seems to come from another space, a voice that sounds not like the first voice but like an echo of a first voice that wasn't heard. The voice is clumsy, euphoric, and says, from force of habit in a former life: "Would you like some tea?" And it doesn't wait for an answer. It picks up a slender spike of golden wheat and sticks it between its toothless gums and moves away, catlike, with eyes wide open. Eyes as immobile as its nose. It has to move all of its boneless head to look at an object. But what object? While this was going on the thin man fell asleep on his single foot and put the eye to sleep without, however, closing it. To put your eye to sleep has to do with not wanting to see. When he doesn't see, he sleeps. In the silent eye a plain is reflected in a rainbow. The air is wondrous. The musical waves begin again. Someone examines their nails. There is a hissing sound in the distance . . . psst! psst! . . . But the single-footed man could never imagine they're calling him. A sound begins from the side, like the flute which always seems to play sideways—a sound from the side begins that without tremor traverses the musical waves and repeats itself so often that it ends up cutting the rock with its uninterrupted dripping. It's a very high-pitched sound, and without any embellishments. A lament cheerful and paced and sharp, like the nonstrident and sweet sharpness of a flute. It's the highest and happiest note a vibration can give. No one on earth could hear it without going mad and beginning to smile forever. But the one-footed man standing on his single foot—sleeps upright. And the female creature stretched out on the beach doesn't think. A new character crosses the deserted plain and disappears, limping. You hear the psst! psst! And no one is being called.

BOOK: The Stream of Life
4.68Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Other books

Coffin Ship by William Henry
Love Me for Me by Jenny Hale
Crash & Burn by Jaci J
Troubled Waters by Sharon Shinn
The Quest for the Heart Orb by Laura Jo Phillips
Pride Before the Fall by JoAnna Grace
Tey's White Wolf by Jana Leigh
Specimen Song by Peter Bowen
A Regency Christmas Carol by Christine Merrill