Friday, February 20, 2009

The Man Of Action

The more I think about it, the more I gain experience with the whips and scorns of time, the more I feel that a man is no man at all if he is not a man of action. Or perhaps not that he is not a man at all but he is not much of a man to be fair. To act is better than merely to talk - a simple fact yet one which I feel is not fully comprehended by most people and men in particular. This simple fact has immense gravitas, yet it is much like the Moon - the light of its weighty truthfulness is only revealed to us in phases, in crescents and halves, and only occasionally in its entirety.

Napoleon, one of the most famous examples of the man of action, himself said that time is most precious to men. We can never recover lost time. Nostalgia, even despair over lost time and missed opportunities is a beautiful feeling just as Keats' Odes are beautiful. That mysterious, twilit tinge of regret that often consumes us is not an arbitrary experience - it is one of the purest, most sincere and profound instances of a man's life. Our most ebullient fear is the fear of having to experience this feeling of bitter regret time and time again.

The newborn child's only sensation of existence is the amorphous, hazy consciousness that at the very least reminds him of this very existence of his, frail though it may well still be. The pulse of this primeval sensation resonates through the nightly caverns of the unexplored consciousness as silently and incessantly as the heart that beats within the fortress of our ribcage. Do we feel our heart beating most of the time though? No, I would say - it's mostly silent. We take this pulse for granted and it is only in the effects of its misuse, or certain lack of use that we come to painfully acknowledge its significance. Likewise, we only come to know of the pulse of this primeval sensation when we reflect on its seemingly silent passivity. Up to this point, it was the mere murmur of a brooklet, now it explodes with the force and fury of a geyser; and this marks the point at which we resign almost completely to its sparkling, vivacious candour. Indeed, a man ought not to resign himself completely to anything but this precise primeval sensation - not to a woman, not to a nation, not even to a seemingly convincing ideal - nothing but this single sensation. A man should only completely surrender to this condition, because it is above all, the most fundamental one from which stem all the rest.

In the Middle Ages, the huge walls of Constantinople were thought impregnable. Legends and myths of its impregnability made it the focal point of the imperialist ambitions of many conquerors. Of course they were not actually impregnable. The Latin Crusaders and later the Ottomans proved this. But in its glorious history, Constantinople's essence would enchant us with those precise legends and myths of its impregnability. There, that is its elan vital, that is what fuels the eternal pyres of its majestic status in our minds. The same goes for the primeval sensation described in the last paragraph - its importance for our being is precisely its vehement reinforcement of the fact that there is something there. Indeed, there is something there - that is the first sensation that a child experiences in infancy; and it sustains our frail being thereafter with its primeval pulse. The child doesn't know what it is, but it knows that it's there; we may not necessarily know what is there in store for us if we act in accordance to our passions, but we know that there is that something which awaits us – our only consolation.
The true man of action has a deep, visceral knowledge of the inner workings of this feeling. It incenses him. It makes him immune to inaction. It empowers him.

The primeval sensation with which we greet the world should be the primeval sensation with which we greet other people; with which we read the opening lines of a poem; with which we reciprocate a heartfelt smile. Myths always describe, eulogize in fact certain actions and thus passions are myths seen through the eyes of a blind poet. Close your eyes and act! Tiresias was blind but a prophet; passions can make you blind but they can make you a prophet too. To act – that is what’s important. All myths are actions past; all passions are actions to be. At least that’s how it ought to work.

Act, act, act. A man is born to act. A man without the will to overstep the boundaries of his reserved character, cringing his life away, is a man to be swiftly dealt with – severe, inflexible justice. Terror needs to strike him – his ungratefulness towards life and its spirited vibrancy needs to be guillotined away, whatever the cost.

From now on, I shall divorce myself from this lonely promontory that is my decency, better judgment and the lot. A man is nothing but a mule carrying the bulky lot of his fruitless diffidence; a real man carries it just as well, with sturdiness, patience and stoical equanimity, but stops and takes breaks from time to time…

From now on, I shall write with stubbornness, not waiting there sterile for a spark of inspiration. I shall be a man of action – inertness is too formulaic for me now.

My mind is weary, exhausted, rejected – it craves practice. And in Shelley’s little, lovely lyric I shall find the compass of my manhood: this weary, rejected mind of mine will find its solace in some secret nest not perched on the feeble twig of some stagnant tree, but on the crest of a billow, forever in motion, forever sure of its course, forever racing towards an end unforeseen.
There you shall find me now.