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Saturday, November 04, 2006

Editorial - Laika Issue Three

"Ours, the scientists keep telling us, is a universe which is disposable. You know it might be just this one anonymous glory of all things [Chartres Cathedral], this rich stone forest, this epic chant, this gaiety, this grand choiring shout of affirmation, which we choose when all our cities are dust; to stand intact, to mark where we have been, to testify to what we had it in us to accomplish. Our works in stone, in paint, in print are spared, some of them for a few decades, or a millennium or two, but everything must fall in war or wear away into the ultimate and universal ash: the triumphs and the frauds, the treasures and the fakes. A fact of life... we're going to die.'Be of good heart,' cry the dead artists out of the living past. Our songs will all be silenced - but what of it? Go on singing...Maybe a man's name doesn't matter all that much."--Orson Welles, F For Fake

Why, in every primitive and modern culture, do poets and storytellers emerge?
What is it that compels us to write?

Certain reasons or excuses reoccur. Perhaps it’s a desire to make sense of life without the cold distance of faith or the bewilderment of science. It could be a tradition of denial, the reassuring telling of beautiful lies as Oscar termed it, to deceive ourselves with happy deceptions, to ward off the evil eye, ineffectual maybe but comforting.
It may be something as simple as the desire to avoid a proper job, a resistance to the world compressing your soul into coal, an attempt to dig ourselves out of the holes we find ourselves in, an urge to educate, entertain, inspire or incite, a fondness for drink and the telling of untruths. Ultimately there are as many reasons as stories themselves.

The one consistent motive that, consciously or subconsciously, moves a person to write or paint or pick up a guitar is the desire to defeat death, to prove that in the present death has no sovereignty over us. There is something in us, a life-instinct or a simple stubbornness, that refuses to accept the end. We thus document what is happening now, spend our nights in acts of revelry, to crystallise and make sacred the present even as time and work are laying waste to our days. A friend of mine came up with a profoundly depressing thought; just as every year you pass the day of your birth so too do you, inversely and without realising it, pass the date upon which you will die. It’s like a horrible antichrist birthday. Maybe some deep buried awareness of this spurs us on to create and to retain our creations, these things that will remain here when we are gone whether they be books or songs or children. Maybe it was the threat of extinction that took man from the savannahs north to the cold, that took man from the caves to the cities.

The island of Venice is sinking, Da Vinci’s frescos are crumbling, the wind is eating at statues as sure as the sea gnaws at the coasts. They moved the contents of London museums to the Welsh mines during the Blitz but ultimately they were delaying the inevitable. All will turn to dust; Mohammed, Jesus, Picasso, Shakespeare, a terrifying and strangely reassuring thought for if our dreams and achievements are dust then so are our worries and failures.

The point of this all, the point of art is simple; it is an attempt to defeat death, to shine light into the void even for just a moment. What is say the Easter Rising now that those who bore witness to it are in the soil? It’s celluloid, it’s Yeat’s poems and O’ Casey’s plays, a painting of Connolly’s Chair, the declaration poster. Art remains. At least for the time being.

As dear, dead Orson said, “Our songs will all be silenced - but what of it? Go on singing.”

Darran Anderson.