these texts are an archive of my life in the San Francisco Bay Area from march 2007 - march 2015. it stands as a record of close to a decade of my life, charting the struggles i faced as an artist, daughter, and lover. messy and chaotic at times, eloquent and poetic at others, these texts are an index i am proud of. it was here in this electric box that i learned how to be honest about my experiences and the person i needed to become. it was here that i first learned the truism that words make the world and how to trust such a beautiful, rife, hard fact.

thank you for meeting me here in such tall grass.

my artist website is here.

Mar 7, 2010

wrestling with ideas...

surprisingly, Facebook CAN be good sometimes. i found this quote this morning and it fits so nicely with a lot of the ideas i've been exploring lately. i haven't read this book but i will quickly remedy that. this passage really struck me.

"But I began then to think of time as having a shape, something you could see, like a series of liquid transparencies, one laid on top of another. you don't look back along time but down through it, like water. Sometimes this comes to the surface, sometimes that, sometimes nothing. Nothing goes away."

-Margaret Atwood, from the first page of Cat's Eye

especially the last sentence: Nothing goes away.

i've been thinking a lot about how memory brings The Past in to The Present moment... makes it alive again, lets it operate again... and that the operations of a memory can be just as inexplicable and confusing as the rest of human life and interaction. an overlapping of time. however, i must accept that The Past, even if it is awake in the present, cannot be changed. it cannot be erased or altered. it happened. it is final, in that sense, even if it is active.

and so... finding a way to walk with memories instead of letting them take the lead... finding a way to live with certain knowledges, certain insights, certain wounds, becomes the challenge. and not to scapegoat or become embittered. not to use The Past as a reason to run and hide or to become cruel, become malicious... not to trade places with The Monsters... not to join them.

as i study loss, grief, expressions and states of mourning, i see more and more clearly how sneaky and attractive and (possibly) a natural reaction for The Abused to long to become The Abuser. i see how slippery that particular slope can be. to hurt because you've been hurt...

but that isn't the only choice. no matter how victimized or traumatized a person may have become, it is still not license to become a monster. and i thinking specifically of murders and rapists here. specifically the people who tortured sylvia likens to death.

i watch that show 'Most Evil" a lot- the one where the psychologist explores killers' childhoods and examines the abuse these people generally suffered as a child in order to find a reason for why they became so violent later on in life.

it's very interesting and completely compelling and i think it's such an interesting practice, on the part of the doctor, to make a scientific argument for the existence of evil (a spiritually defined state). but he doesn't excuse it. there are many many many MORE people out there who have suffered in the same ways who do not turn around and react with such extreme violence and hatred toward others.

once you become a monster, you give up the right to the compassion we extend to victims. once you turn the corner and become The Abuser, you no longer get to expect the care and concern we offer to The Abused. because The Abused are the reality of these crimes. they are the mark, the proof, the evidence of another person's malice, hatred, and callousness. they are the people who bear this, who can speak as a witness... and so we must look at them, we must listen to them. or i must. i must because if i only look at the killer, the torturer, the abuser, and i examine their life solely, i will end up finding out that they were too, once, a child who was hurt... and that fact will wake up sympathies and confusions and torments in me that can be used distract me from the fact that they are not that scared child any longer.

they too became adults and made choices. and just as i am not allowed to sit here and blame the realities of my life on other people, and scapegoat my responsibilities on the actions of others, neither are they. if the past is awake in the present, i can have compassion for who these people were as a child, but also indignation and disgust for who they are as adults in the HERE and NOW.

and it could be that ignoring a victim's pain, refusing to hear their story, is a clear path to waking malice inside them. and so all the more reason to look at The Victim. all the more reason to try to understand them, where they are, their feelings, their insights, their knowledge. and i don't mean that as a preventative measure solely, but allowing art, science, and philosophy a set of ethics. all this learning and exploring doesn't matter worth a shit if it isn't beneficial inside daily life... at least at some point. there is absolutely no worth to examining why someone tortured another human being if we are unable to use that knowledge to either stop that cycle or to provide care to those who were made to suffer. i study atrocity in order to develop a deep sense of empathy... in order to be able to listen with my whole being... in order to move beyond fascination. fascination is step 1 in my practice. and not just my art practice but my way of living.

fascination must not be allowed to go so unchecked that we end up rationalizing horror. psychology can explain these horrors but it will never be able to explain them away. it will never erase what was done. it will never make it okay. it will never heal the wounds that we must learn to walk alongside of. it will never undo the pain of atrocity. the past is a FACT that can operate in the present but that isn't a license to do such grievous harm to others. it does not render a person's malice harmless. since when does understanding something turn it in to a positive? or even a neutral? understanding how someone became abusive does not change the fact that they are abusive.

and since we cannot change the past, we must deal with who these people ARE right now this minute. being beat up as a kid can't be used 30 years later to get you off the hook for becoming a monster. think of Hitler. he was once innocent too. he was once a scared and hurt child too. but that doesn't excuse The Holocaust and it definitely doesn't undo the trauma that so many others were subjected to as a result- sheer horror, complete degradations, entirely brutal malice. understanding what made hitler Hitler, doesn't change what happened. it doesn't undo what he did. it doesn't make charlotte delbo any less a victim or any less a survivor.

understanding HOW a person becomes monstrous certainly won't lessen the reality of the amazing state of pain sylvia likens died in.

and it doesn't alter the ripple that is sent out.

i think of the police officers and the detectives and the coroner who had to handle her case. they are traumatized too. and the ripple goes and goes and the story of her life lands in front of my eyes. i feel traumatized by these facts too. it isn't nearly the same degree as the coroner who had to write this stuff down, but it still exists.

i'm worn out now. i get long-winded when i get excited or when i'm trying to figure something out and see where i stand on an issue. more later.


Doll said...

Cat's Eye is amazing. Atwood is brilliant... Most definitely read.

I very much like what you have to say.


angela simione said...

thank you, doll. :)

i will definitely get a copy of the book. i'm overdue for a trip to the used bookstore. i love used bookstores. they smell and feel like home.

Maggie May said...

As a person who has lived with and grew up with psychological horror and abuse, I have an opinion that is obviously sprung from not only my studies, but my experience.

Not everyone who is abused grows up to be an abuser, and absolutely nothing can excuse or erase when a horrible act has been committed. That being said I do not believe that everyone is born equal or 'tablu rasa' - a blank slate. We are born with our own innate strengths and weakness, our own innate consciousness of this world, and some people's mental and emotional structures crumble differently under abuse than other peoples.

I myself after extensive therapy an help have been able to emerge as a functioning loving person. However I look at someone like my ex boyfriend- whose mother was a raging, physically and emotionally abusive person who died in her bed when my ex and I were 17 and he found her there, hooked to her oxegen machine- who was not able to 'recover' the same. He, to my knowledge, has never abused anyone or anything, but he is not ok. He is a shell of a person, unable to feel much of anything beyond a surface level and unable to construct true intimate relationships with anyone. He has never had children, and this might be good or bad. Perhaps having children would have helped him heal, as I did, or perhaps he would have carried on the horrible legacy.

I believe that some people can withstand horrible suffering and still their spirit refuses to give in, they fight against darkness. I am and have always been like that.

And other people have softer and more pure spirits, gentle soldiers I think of them, like my ex and my sister, people who just cannot escape the horror.

What it does to them- is that really in their choosing? That is not something I would judge.

Thank you for a fascinating essay.

The Silvia Likens case is absolutely black. So much blackness around me right now. I hold on to the light.

angela simione said...

maggie, thank you so much for adding to this. you have said it exactly right. exactly. and with much more eloquence than i did. i appreciate your experiences and insight and continue to look to your blog for inspiration when it comes to these matters.

there is so much grey when it comes to victimhood... what it does to a person, how it manifests, what a person must do as a means to survive it... and no two people are alike when it comes to that. i agree with everything you've said here and i so so so appreciate having a human face placed on this subject. i did not mean to imply that when someone becomes a monster that they "chose" it in a conscious sense... i'm thinking in terms of once someone does become a monster, for whatever reason, that is the reality now, the only one to respond to, and as a way to prevent more victims from being created in the wake... my anger over rapists who are given horribly short sentences.

and i think you are right about everyone not being born equal in terms of their abilities to cope or withstand or even recover. i completely agree. and i also think some people are born without ANY ability for compassion... sociopaths who are incapable of caring that they've damaged the lives of others or even ended them. and those are the monsters i meant to talk about. those are the people who i don't want to see given much rope or excuse. it is pitiable for a human to have been born without the capacity to feel compassion. and it is pitiable that a person may be born with a deep enjoyment of violence. but ... i don't know.

i want to remember and defend those who couldn't defend themselves.

thank you for writing. i am entirely grateful for your words.

Elisabeth said...

Thanks, Angela for struggling with these issues as you do.

One of the difficulties, to my way of thinking, lies in the connection between the victim and the perpetrator. There are times when they become blurred. I don't want to be too simplistic because these issues are complex.

Often times a victim will blame himself for what has been done to him, see himself as a monster and side then with the aggressor. He might then himself become an abuser, whether towards himself or another.

That's roughly the pattern that occurs when people don't get help.

We are all capable of hurting ourselves and others and of being hurt. The degree and our ability to be self aware about thees things help to mitigate against the worst of it.

I'll post here a lovely quote from Carson McCullers' 'The Ballad of the Sad Cafe' because it exemplifies the struggle:

Carson McCullers. The Ballad of the Sad Café and Other Stories.
Bantam Books: USA, 1951. Pp 26-27.

'And love changed Marvin Macy. Before the time when he loved Miss Amelia it could be questioned if such a person had within a heart and a soul. Yet there is some explanation for the ugliness of his character, for Marvin Macy had had a hard beginning in this world. He was one of seven unwanted children whose parents could hardly be called parents at all; these parents were wild youngans who liked to fish and roam around the swamp. Their own children, and there was a new one almost every year, were only a nuisance to them. At night when they came home from the mill they would look at the children as though they did not know wherever they had come from. If the children cried, they were beaten, and the first thing they learned in this world was to seek the darkest corner of the room and try to hide themselves as best they could. They were as thin as little white haired ghosts, and they did not speak, not even to each other. Finally, they were abandoned by their parents altogether and left to the mercies of the town. It was a hard winter with the mill closed down almost three months, and much misery everywhere. But this is not a town to let orphans perish on the road before your eyes. So here is what came about: the eldest child, who was eight years old, walked into Cheehaw and disappeared – perhaps he took a freight train somewhere and went out into the world, nobody knows. Three other children were boarded out amongst the town, being sent around from one kitchen to another, and as they were delicate they died before Easter time. The last two children were Marvin Macy and Henry Macy and they were taken into a home. There was a good woman in the town named Mrs Mary Hale, and she took Marvin Macy and Henry Macy and loved them as her own.
But the hearts of small children are delicate organs. A cruel beginning in this world can twist them into curious shapes. The heart of a hurt child can shrink so that forever afterward it is hard and pitted as the seed of a peach. Or again, the heart of such a child may fester and swell until it is a misery to carry within the body, easily chafed and hurt by the most ordinary things. This last is what happened to Henry Macy, who is so opposite his brother, is the kindest and gentlest man in town. He lends his wages to those who are unfortunate, and in the old days he used to care for the children whose parents were at the café on Saturday night. But he is shy man and he has the look of one who has a swollen heart and suffers. Marvin Macy, however grew to be bold and fearless and cruel. His heart turned tough as the horns of Satan, and until the time when he loved Miss Amelia he brought to his brother and the good woman who raised him shame and trouble.
But love reversed the character of Marvin Macy.'

This writing reminds me of some of your images, Angela. They are haunted by pain.

angela simione said...

hi elisabeth. i'm so glad for your addition to this conversation and very much appreciate your insight in to this particular topic. the excerpt you included is wonderful and i printed it out and stuck it in my idea book so that i can keep comming back to it easily. but i'll also probably buy the book too. i'm getting quite the reading list together.

i'm glad that you can see my images are haunted by pain without my having to point it out or talk about it in any specific way in referrence to my own life and experiences... it gives me confidence that i'm on the right track... or at least find myself on it every now and then.

you and maggie may have shined such a light with your comments and given me so much to consider. thank you so much for taking the time to write so much. the help is golden and wonderful and i am so grateful to have it as i caontinue to wrestle with these ideas. victimization and our responses to it is such a sticky subject... one that i really, really wish had a single, definitive answer. my naivety showing! :) the grey area itself can be such a heartbreaking thing. thank you.