Alice Walsh is not a photographer. She is the editor of The Bohemyth. These are photos she took on holidays in Spain last week, she was too disorganised to find more appropriate photos in time for this issue. She Instagramed them to try to make them look a bit better.
Fame Dwells Only On The Lips
– By Sean Michael O’Neill
They were still. They were always still. They looked out at their surroundings which had changed greatly. There were no longer any walls in the museum that once housed them and their companions, many of them now gone forever. There was no longer any museum. The eyes of the man looked out from the painting judging the present and the past. Judging those who had gone before, his creators. He was steadfast in holding his pitchfork in the midst of all the destruction around him. By his side stood his wife. While the man looked none too surprised at this foolishness, his wife looked perplexed and sad to see what had become of man’s dreams and delusions. Behind them stood an image of the world that once was. Simple and wholesome looking, their house stood behind them with the trees behind that. These were simple folk. They had never asked to be made immortal. No, that was the wish of their creator.
The sky was dark and foreboding, lit by a hellish red glow and wisps of fire, like whips, cracked out into the lifeless sky. The great ball of fire consumed the horizon, burning and churning, spewing and stewing, like a vast cauldron of pent up red hot frustration. The desolate plains were burnt black and lit like the glowing embers of coal amid a cozy fire. But this was not a cozy place. The earth was scarred and barren and the horizon seemed to drop of a sheer precipice into the seething giant that was the sun. Everywhere the eye could see were the same four variants of color. Red, orange, yellow and black. If there was a hell it would surely look like this.
In places some curious structures could still be found. Remnants of an explosion, left unrecognizable. The forces of nature had worked on those structures too. Rusting them, eating them, crumbling them and devouring them with weed-like tentacles and parasitic swarms. Now even those forces of nature had perished. All that was left was this simple couple, bonded together by oil and canvass. There was no sound except for the waspish wind whipping up a solar storm.
The temperature continued to rise and rise and the charred ground began to change its atomic composition. What was solid was now beginning to become molten liquid. The surface of the earth now bubbled like a red hot pot of custard, thick and oozing. It moved slowly. In this unbearable heat things could only move slowly. It crept across the ground eating up everything in its path, slow and menacing. The whips of the sun cracked across the violent red sky. Deathly rays shooting out across the dying planet from frequent eruptions, sweeping the planet clean with radiation.
The woman in the picture stood by her husband. Looking away into the distance but looking at nothing. She was thinking. Thinking about all the remnants that not so long ago were there, that spoke of humankind and their achievements, that gave them some kind of immortality for so long. Thinking about how this had really been an illusion. Even at this time some remnants remained of the civilisation that once was. They had withstood the ravages of time for a long time it was true. Machines on which were stored the great books of literature, paintings stored in protected areas and music, statues and poetry of the ages all archived for posterity and cared for with great delicacy. Long after the creators of endless philosophy had been relieved of their curiosity, the books continued to live on.
They continued to live on but to what purpose. With nobody to talk about them or enjoy them, they were no longer immortal as their creators had intended. Now, at the end, things could be judged clearly. It is only at the end of something that its success can be judged. At the end of a project, the end of a story, the end of a man’s life. The poor simple woman tried her best to be a fair judge to these creations now gone, herself and her husband the last remaining.
It had to taken a lifetime to discuss but only a second for the searing heat of the sun, that filled the whole sky a murderous red to erase Dostoyevsky, Plato, Stravinsky and Van Gogh. And what if they hadn’t been destroyed, she thought. What if they all had continued to live on. Simply because they were still there did not mean they were still immortal. With nobody to talk about them they were only materials. Books were just paper, paintings just canvass. They only had a life of their on within the hearts of people.
When the molten lava slowly crept over those machines, those works of art. The faces looked out from the paintings, witnessing something their creators could not. In a second they were gone. All that remained of humanity was gone, all that remained of history, of hopes and dreams, of the permanence and immortality of art. Wiped out in one blow by nature.
And so what had been the point she thought. So much effort, so much life dedicated to creating these statements.
The man thought it was foolishness. He stood there, upright, looking out from the painting. Judging the works of humanity in this final hour. They should have been simple folk like us; he thought. They would have been a lot better off. So foolish, wasting their time chasing after dreams of immortality and fame that could never be permanent. What is the good of art? Is it not better to be practical in your kindness and do a service for those you meet in day to day life instead of trying to influence the world with grand ideas. Does it not also change the world to do your work well and treat others with respect? These artists he thought were merely interested in promoting themselves and their ideas, whether right or wrong, merely so that their names could live on. Well if only they could see things now.
If they had used their time instead to produce food for people and to give them shelter, that would have been a better use of their time.
Woman wrinkled her brow in contemplation. She questioned her husbands opinions sometimes. Even the value of producing food and shelter for people ended with the end of the civilization. In that sense it could not be said that art had been of any less value now that it also ended. To produce food and give shelter to people is surely a great service, but once they have obtained these basic needs they hunger for higher foods to nourish their minds. Had the artists not provided for those needs? Yes, they had.
So, the purpose of art must not be to gain immortality at all, just as the purpose of building a house or making some food is not to have it last forever. The purpose of creating art as in other things, is to nourish and give comfort to the civilization that feeds on it. The art that does this will be discussed and admired, if people are to hear of it, it will find a way into their hearts. The art that doesn’t nourish and comfort is forgotten. That is the art that seeks only to promote the ideas of its creator but not to nourish or uplift humanity, not to speak to their dreams and challenges, who they are and what they find humorous.
Then the purpose of art must be to live among people and once people are gone, it has served its purpose. Unless another civilization had come along to admire and discuss it again, then it would no longer be art but merely paper or canvass or whatever materials created it. Like, the body without the soul.
When the humans had perished you could have heard a butterflies wings beating a mile away. The chatter had stopped and that was it. So many things existed merely in their minds and souls. Without them, even the once mighty concept of money was reduced to mere paper and then dust.
Everything around was dark and red. Thick orange rivers of flame crept silently over the ground, searching for their next victim. Clouds of dust, belched up into the atmosphere by the guts of the earth, choked the sky but couldn’t block out the sun which filled the field of view. Thick smoke covered the canvass, choking the husband and wife, turning a once great work of art into something indistinguishable from a bread board. As the lava crept near its fate was sealed. It took just a second for the wood to catch fire once the orange goo had tipped its edge and in another it to was reduced to cinders, cremated with nobody left to mourn.
Some alien race might have wondered if this barren world could ever have supported life. And if life was to begin again would it create things to admire and discuss? Perhaps. There would be no immortality in that but it would be worth it.
Sean O’Neill is 32 years old, he was born and lives in Dublin. He is a husband and father of two children, with another on the way. Sean holds a BA in journalism and has been published in the Irish Independent, the New Science Journalism Project and various other web and student publications. He runs a blog on personal communication called Symbols Made of Sound and also writes poetry, short stories, essays and flash fiction. He occasionally provides coaching in creative writing for children in Dublin and the subjects of most interest to him are psychology, communications, education, spirituality and children’s rights.
– By Sam Poots
She cried. I knew she would. People always cry. She sat there, pressed into the corner of the room, screaming and bawling, her tears running down onto the flowers of her blouse. Beautiful. I have always thought so. Someone crying is such a fascinating sight. A single emotion tears through all a person’s masks and barriers until, finally, you are shown what lies beneath. I have never cried like that.
The girl was still crying when the police came and carried her out to their car. The tears had dried on her face, but I could still see the raw and naked freedom the emotion had let through, even from where I now stood on the other side of the street. It was a complete contrast to the stony faced visages of the officers. They went into the house, taking a moment to strengthen their barriers before stepping inside. When they came out I saw that their cages had been shaken, but no emotion got out. They had hardened their walls and blockades through experience, denying them the freedom that might otherwise have been achieved. Still, I consider it a success to have managed to shake the walls of such great foundations even slightly.
No one saw me that day. The image of the police men, their stony walls etched across their stony faces, stayed with me as I made my way homewards. I couldn’t help wondering, was freedom truly such a thing to be feared? What would drive a man to build up barriers that thick just to keep himself trapped? Of course, emotions are said to have the capacity to hurt, but I have always believed that freedom is worth any cost you might have to pay for it. Those French revolutionaries understood that. Many went to the guillotine, such was the price of freedom, and the people revelled in that freedom. It is one of the many times in history when people were able to achieve true freedom, momentary though it always proves to be. I often wish I could have talked to Monsieur Robespierre. I think that he would have proven to be a fascinating conversationalist.
I was at the funeral. Did you know that? It was what you might think of as the ideal weather for a funeral. The sky was bright, yet overcast, the sun breaking through grey snow clouds, which managed to hold back their load until after everyone had left. There was a large crowd gathered in that small church yard, all come to show their love for the departed. Funerals are another of those occasions where people can achieve momentary freedom. They turn up and they wear their love upon their sleeve. A love free for all to see. Except the one for whom it is intended of course. Then there were the tears. Many people cried. Not the loud wailing of the frightened child, but nonetheless intense, nonetheless revealing. So, so many people set free by one simple act.
From the back of the crowd I could see the girl standing by the graveside. Her hand was held by a large man, his Bastille face cracked and failing. At the head of the grave a minister spoke words. Comforting words, words of peace. And they were comforting; you could see that on the faces of the people there. However, I could tell that the true comfort was coming from the people. That gathering of love and affection. It reached out. It soothed and healed the people who had been revealed, who had had their shells so painfully stripped. Emotion touched emotion, person felt person, until they were able to once again build their barriers. You could see the construction work carrying on all around the graveyard. By the time people had begun to leave many of the walls were as good as new. Even the girl had managed to rebuild her walls, though I could see that they shook behind her eyes. Is it not funny that the very release which allowed emotion to flow freely then proves to be that which helps to once again damn the rivers of others? Funny, or frustrating. Take your pick. Personally, I am content that they experienced the freedom. If they want to return to their barricades, that is fine. Just as long as they realise that they must step beyond them. Or else be forced beyond them.
The boys in blue found me a few days later. I was in my living room at the time, reading Journey to the West. Have you ever read that? The Monkey King is trapped beneath a mountain by the Buddha, before being constrained with a magic head band to protect a monk on his odyssey to the Western lands. Remind me to lend it to you then. Well, my door was kicked in and a group of police officers, led by two detectives in plain clothes ran in, waving guns around and shouting. It was strange. Yes, they looked violent. They shouted the whole time, even as they were tackling me to the floor, pinning me down and cuffing my wrists. Yet it wasn’t the shouts of anger. I have heard the shouts of anger. These were controlled. I could see the anger in each of them. But these police wore the same granite-etched expressions as the ones I had seen a few days before. Anger was there, but it was behind the walls, smouldering at me from its enclosure. I have to admit, that was the first time I was glad that man, for the most part, does not live his life in a state of freedom. I have no desire to be beaten to death by a group of rage filled and wrathful officers armed with batons. Yet I couldn’t help wondering, as they loaded me into the police car shouting my rights, what could cause such fortresses as these to crack? A thought that has stayed with me.
So you asked me why I did what I did, Doctor? I suppose that that is your answer. What does it take? People need to be free, deserve to be free. But they don’t let themselves be free. So it is up to me to help them. To force their emotions to break through the flood gates, smash the walls and structures they have hemmed themselves in with. I have donned the mantle left behind by Robespierre. I realise that some might view me as evil, but if that is so then surely I must be a necessary one. If not me, someone else surely would. I cannot be the only one who looks in from outside, sees the people trapped and choking within themselves. Look at that person walking outside in the corridor, what do you see Doctor? You are a man of the mind, so you too must see the structures a person builds around themselves, to separate themselves from themselves. But that is all you see and it is your profession to help them rebuild those structures. I realised a long time ago that those structures are masks. They stop people seeing the real person, the side that is revealed through their own intensity of emotion. They prevent people from reaching out and connecting with those around them, as at the funeral. That is why I did what I did, Doctor. I stormed the Bastille and I broke through it.
Now, of course, the irony is that I have ended up with a cage of my very own. A barrier built by others. A wall to separate me from them. A fortress, a mountain, which they have placed upon my head with the hope of keeping me contained. Sitting inside, looking out through barred windows and bolted doors. I wonder. Is this the life that others always experience?
Samuel Poots is a 22 year old English journalist who has lived in N.Ireland for the past ten years and within his own head for his entire life. He studied English at University of Ulster and has recently returned from China where he taught English, as well as geek culture, at a summer camp in Yangshuo.
Categories: Issue 33