They pass quickly, the blue patches and red. An inverted triangle of white is cut by width of blue. There is a dome shape of scarlet with yellow fluttering away from it. Underneath, everything is hardness. Sounds intersperse the patches. The streaks of revealing grey associate themselves with a quiet whir. There are squeaking sounds as the black quadrilateral stops next to a red circle. A sweet and pungent flavour steals in upon the sounds of patches. There is the pleasure of solid that yields to a touch, an intimate sense of continuing victorious efforts.
This is the way a certain portion of the world would look to a solipsist out for an afternoon stroll.
He is walking along a city street, observing other people as he goes. He notices a man wearing a white shirt and a blue tie, a woman wearing a scarlet hat with yellow feathers. He hears a whir of automobiles; tyres on the paved street, the squeaks of breaks as a truck stops before a red light. His mouth enjoys a sweet taste, for he is chewing gum. Every motion of jaw sustains in him a thriving sense of accomplishment.
But, you will think, what a way to describe perfectly commonplace events. I agree that it is strange. The way however is not mine, I merely repeat the language of solipsism. The mode is to talk about “colour-patches” (presentation) rather than about “objects” (content) and the reason is that the former term clearly assumes less than the latter and therefore seems to avoid more problems.
“Solipsism” is, of all the words, one most faithful to its etymology. It was compounded, by a deliberate act rather than by unconscious growth, of two Latin words, of which the first means “alone” and the second “one self”. The term thus becomes admirably expressive of the view that everyone is immediately aware only of their own existence and of the sensations which fill their consciousness. If it is believed, further, that such immediate awareness is the only guarantee authenticating our knowledge of what exists, the conclusion will follow that the existence of oneself and the existence of one’s sensations are the only things abiding for sure.
It is perfectly natural for musicians and painters to be somewhat more concerned with the means to an effect than they are with the effect itself. And we, for whom their creations are made, come also to prize technique as the ultimate manifestation of their talents. The mark of connoisseurship lies, we begin to think, in observing not what has been done, but how it was done.
This separation of form from content, of technique from result, arises simply from our being interested rather more in the one than in the other. The preference itself is which has not always existed and doubtless will not always exist. All thought of such a separation vanishes when we inquire how far an artist can detach himself and his works from the life around him. To attain complete detachment, what would he have to do?
Perhaps we shall do well to admit at once that there is a strict, logical sense in which two sides do exist to everything. It is always possible to find for any statement another statement which is its exact contradictory. The second statement will be one which contains just what is necessary, and only what is necessary, to deny the first. Thus, I think we should observe that on most occasions neutrality is an illusion. Once the battle is joined – once, that is to say, there really are two to the question – everything done, or left undone, assists one side or the other; it is in fact impossible not to take one or the other, no matter how one tries. Aloofness, so fondly nursed in theory, is nullified in fact.
The best refutation, however, is one which I cannot give, for it remains to be given by artists themselves. Arguments like mine may prove whatever they prove; but the superstition will die, and when it does die, under the skill with which the artists treat the problems of the day. A contemporary Milton might (and would) be traduced as a subversive influence, but even the Hearst press would hardly venture to call him an incompetent poet. I can imagine a time, not perhaps far distant, when the belief that you cannot mix fact and fiction will crumble before a battery of works too powerful for resistance and too magnificent for reproach.
There will be no need to persuade artists that they are full of speech, and that their speech can have fair meaning to mankind. As there is no creator who is not in some degree a man, so there is no man who is not in some degree a creator. Without surrendering any of the admiration we feel for the insuperable achievements of genius, we may nevertheless hope for a narrowing of the distance between what is and what is not, for the awakening of a universal interest in art and in life. When artists have fully recovered their humanity, humanity will have recovered art.
Extract from Vol.02 Issue.06 of eFiction India
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