suffering & justin hall

by admin

I posted a while ago about nietzsche and blogging, and then after a reminder from sen no sen, I dug up some more nietzsche, all of which amounted to a few observations, summarized a bit crassly here:
1. blogging can be a way to transform ones life into something more (art)
2. seeing ones life as art is a means to transform suffering into something meaningful and positive
3. if one is driven by art, one should strive for art
and finally
4. one should equate ones life to fate, and love that fate, whatever it might be

You may have seen this intense video by Justin Hall (via i never knew). Hall has chronicled the last 11 yrs of his personal life online. The video, titled aptly, “I sort of had a breakdown in January 2005” is a cringe-inducing or gut-wrenching 10-minute peek into the soul of a blogger mid-meltdown, a very strange place to peek. Commenters are split between: “I feel your pain,” and “Wait wait wait WAIT ONE FUCKING SECOND, You’re 30 years old? What the fuck, dude!” Anyway, Justin Hall’s dilemma: his meaningful relationships are with that wide web of the internet, his writing (and his camera!); and his candid online writing about personal life taints his personal relationships. So he’s alone. Blogging and art, or or real connection; he thinks he can’t have both.

The video makes painful watching–it’s not the sort of stuff you see too often, but it’s fascinating are really weird, and you can watch real-time as Hall consciously translates this breakdown into a video. At one point Hall, with a wry chuckle, choked in tears, says something like: “If I’m going to go through this crap, I might as well make some good media with it.” I laughed out loud when I head that, but he’s right. Isn’t that, really, what art does? It transforms our lives, experience and our (possibly self-absorbed) torment into something more, something wider, something that other people can connect with? (I used to have a prof in university who constantly quoted CS Lewis: “We read to know we are not alone.”) Whatever you think of Justin Hall’s misery, he took it and transformed it into something for the rest of us to consider, and it probably did him some good. Nietzsche:

Art as the redemption of the sufferer–as the way to states in which suffering is willed, transfigured, diefied, where suffering is a form of great delight.

Blogging as problem and solution, maybe.

I was thinking about Justin Hall as I hopped into a taxi tonight. It’s rare to find a cab driver in Montreal who isn’t mid-argument, or mid-plea with some friend or lover on his mobile while driving you from place to place. A good thing, probably, at least for taxi drivers: talking makes their shifts pass faster, and you hope it helps them better develop their own relationships. But that technology cuts completely my interaction with the driver: I give my destination, and pay my bill. In the past you could count on every fouth taxi ride providing some entertaining conversation–rants about the mayor and bicycles, or just pleasant weather-talk–and sometimes some great human interaction. Now it’s one out of ten, because of mobile phone technology, which occupies the driver with other things. So the crazy taxi conversation fades from our world; what was once a social and commercial transaction becomes nothing but a commercial transaction. I don’t begrudge taxi drivers their mobile converations, but I miss the crazy-talk. I’ve lost out a bit, and I think society has lost out a bit too – though probably the taxi drivers have gained, which is fair-enough as far as trades go.

Blogging’s got some of that calculus as well: you gain in interaction with a community of like-minded individuals spread through the ether of the net, but your flesh n blood interactions can suffer. I notice this in a very small way with myself and others. The trade off. Maybe it’s a bit much to call blogging art, and maybe recording a tantrum isn’t art either; but it’s engaging, I was drawn in, fascinated, and decided to write about it, which gives it some more value, at least to me.