A Quiet Place

We watched Wings of Desire (1987) by Wim Wenders yesterday. I had never seen it before, and frankly did not care for it too much, but the trapeze artist Marion (played by Solveig Dommartin) got me thinking about the time when I read a lot of French literature: Camus, Cioran, Blanchot and continental philosophy. I also read authors like Beckett, a lot of Wittgenstein and sometimes went back to Kafka. In the film, Marion goes through a crisis. The way she speaks about her condition reminded me of an old fantasy I’ve had since childhood.

The fantasy goes more or less like this. I find a small door in the wall, open it and find myself in a blank space. I explore the space and find it completely silent, empty and vast. When I return through the door, I find that time has stood still. I quickly figure out I am able to enter or exit the space as I wish and do whatever I want for as long as I want while I’m there. The emptiness and silence of the space is mine to use as I please. Because I was a bookish child, I thought of this fantasy space as a place where I could read and think in peace.

I have a similar feeling when I read the authors I just mentioned. The volume of the world is turned down and there is room for thought. Because I have studied literature a lot, I should probably know whether there is a term for this feeling or not. There might be, but none comes to mind right now. “The void” may be one, but it sounds much too melodramatic. I’ve tried to write about silence before: silence in films, silence and language, the unsayable and about many other things around the subject. I don’t think I’ve ever managed to say what I want to say.

Recently, I’ve thought about social media and the noisiness of modern media in general. It seems to lock the door to that quiet place or fill its silence with unnecessary babbling. We are supposed to respond to the babbling and try to form informed reactions to all this noise. I’d like to say that most of it is meaningless, but that wouldn’t be accurate. It’s too meaningful. There’s no room for thought when you are force-fed meaningful content from the time you wake up to the time you go to bed. We are supposed to be creative as well and generate content for modern media ourselves, but it seems like all you can do are collages made of that very noise. Is this being creative? Or is it just more noise?

There are other kinds of creativity that do not thrive in this cacophony. They begin with isolating yourself from the world as best you can and then creating the world anew. You will be channelling what you see around you in some sense, of course, but in a way that is not detached from the way you see the world yourself. It’s a Romantic notion of creativity, but I like it. Unapologetically and unironically. Many of the existential, modernist and minimalist authors I so enjoy we’re actually lamenting the death of this type of creativity. In the Wenders film, Nick Cave becomes the symbol of what I’m talking about. When he showed up last night, I knew everything was going to be alright, left the room, took a shower and went to bed. I never finished watching the film.

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