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Rachel Cusk, from Coventry: “Edith Wharton: The Age of Innocence”
How is one meant to make sense of all that obsolete suffering? How is one meant to feel anything other than victimised and abused, when the ‘rules’ that entailed so much personal pain turn out not to have been rules after all?
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Geoff Dyer, from “Loving and Admiring: Camus’s Algeria”, Otherwise Known as the Human Condition: Selected Essays and Reviews, 1989-2010
As I continue walking the sun bursts out again, making the bank of cloud smolder green-black, luminous over the sea. Perched between the road and the sea, between sun and cloud, some boy are playing football in a prairie blaze of light. The pitch glows the colour of rust. The ball is kicked high and all the potential of these young lives is concentrated on it. As the ball hangs there, moon-white against the wall of cloud, everything in the world seems briefly up for grabs and I am seized by two contradictory feelings: there is so much beauty in the world it is incredible that we are ever miserable for a moment; there is so much shit in the world that it is incredible we are ever happy for a moment.
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You might think a total solar eclipse would have no colour. The word “eclipse” comes from ancient Greek ekleipsis, “a forsaking, quitting, abandonment.” The sun quits us, we are forsaken by light. Yet people who experience total eclipse are moved to such strong descriptions of its vacancy and void that this itself begins to take on colour. What after all is a colour? Something not no colour. Can you make a double negative of light? Would that be like waking from a dream in the wrong direction and finding yourself on the back side of your own mind? There is a moment of reversal within totality.

Anne Carson, Decreation: Poetry, Essays, Opera; from ‘Totality: The Colour of Eclipse

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Rachel Cusk, from Coventry: “How to Get There”
A writer may be someone who has never lost their voice, or has always had it; for a number of reasons, they have withheld themselves from immersion in the social contract. Some creative writing students are already writers, but often they are people whose immersion, conversely, has been complete: they are writers who have never actually written anything. One thing it profits a writer to learn, through teaching, is how fundamental a distinction this is.
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This morning, in the middle of my self quarantine period, right during morning chores, I remember one thing the psychologist that I visited taught me: conditional love.

The concept is simple: it is when in order for you to be loved, you have to be or do or look a certain way. She told me to list a timeline of my life and what happened during those times. I listed how I got bullied in elementary school because I was an actress and I dressed up not modestly and no one wanted to befriend me. I also addressed when people thought I was a freak for talking about pop culture and was obsessed with Glee all the time in elementary and junior high school. I also listed that time when my parents told me to take Science major because they thought it would be able to make it easier for me to find college majors (I initially asked to go into Social major and I was never interested in Science lessons, I even got low grades and fell into depression). I also addressed several encounters of romantic interests that I had and how they turned into several forms of conditional love. I remembered how this fling seemed to become distant only to find an interest in another woman that they were both in the same event with. I also remembered how my ex forced me to have sex in a subtle manner by convincing that he was so good at it while doing it with his friends with benefits and exes (I did not want it, even if I did, it was because I was tired of fighting it. But no sex happened, I broke up right away because he was still reminded by his ex fling, in which in a subtle way, he shaped me as though I was her). And in the end, this catalyst of mine, in which I had to be able to collaborate with him in different achievements so that I would not lose his attention, then he did not appreciate if I achieved something that was truly my desire, as much as I appreciated his, only to realize that I surrendered myself to this certain shape the campus society considered as ‘success.’

They were all conditional and sadly they were not me.

I realized that I stopped acting, I hindered myself from truly express my outgoing personality. I ended up giving in and slipping my power away because of men who barely understood me, who barely even wanted me in the first place. I fell to survival mode, that when I failed trying to make friends or to be out and about, then I would be just be in the corner instead. I achieved things, but I achieved things that were not even in my plan in the first place, only to think that it was a waste of time that I could have achieved something else that I wanted (because I barely even knew what I wanted), that I had been carving the path of someone else’s.

I got to the point where I got tired of compliments. I got tired of validation. What was the use of validation and recognition when they were not what I wanted to be defined with? I did feel like a dead man for living a life that was not my own. I even ended up going to counselling just to keep someone that was not meant to be kept in my life, for thinking that it would fix something - that there was something wrong with me that I could not meet his level of happiness. There was never any happiness after all. I was giving too much, watering too much on a dead plant. I walked away, knowing it was for the best - and it did. Now, I am figuring out what I want in life, investing in things that I truly want, gradually reinventing myself, befriending the coolest people I have ever met and be inspired. I am at peace, although at times I still feel myself spiraling down unexpectedly, but it gets easier. I can breath the freshest air. I don’t even think about people seeing my social media, the views only go up when I achieve something (academically, mostly), and the likes increase if my photos include black suits and high heels. Whenever I post something related to arts or travel or any other things that are my actual interests, the amount of likes are not satisfying. But honestly, I have not been caring much about it and it is great. I can do what I want without having people to like what I do. I have had my phase where everyone commented on my posts, giving praises and such, I have had my spotlight before. Also maybe God tried to hide me for awhile only to come out as someone I am meant to be. Who knows?

I am aware that I still have inner works to do, not everything is to be blamed to the other side. I need to work on my give and take, as well as determining my own worth. I even still need to work on not caring much and how this sudden electric shock bursts just as I encounter these people in my story (there used to be a tremor, but now an electric shock is a sign that it gets tamer). I just hope that I can still learn, that I keep learning. That it is alright not to depend myself and my own happiness on other people. That it is a brave move to find compassion within myself. I should convince myself more of what I want in life, and stop doubting myself in reaching it. I should stop having people dictating the paths to take and believe more in my values. I should be okay with being alone. I should be okay with leaving people behind to find peace (honestly it still feels hard, although I know I have got the best people in my life already.)

I hope as more days to come, unconditional forms of love will be at reach.

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Rachel Cusk, from Coventry: “How to Get There”
Language is not only the medium through which existence is transacted, it constitutes our central experiences of social and moral content, of such concepts as freedom and truth, and, most importantly, of individuality and the self; it is also a system of lies, evasions, propaganda, misrepresentation and conformity. Very often a desire to write is a desire to live more honestly through language; the student feels the need to assert a ‘true’ self through the language system, perhaps for the reason that this same system, so intrinsic to every social and personal network, has given rise to a ‘false’ self.
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“For what prevents us from saying that the happy life is to have a mind that is free, lofty, fearless and steadfast - a mind that is placed beyond the reach of fear, beyond the reach of desire, that counts virtue the only good, baseness the only evil, and all else but a worthless mass of things, which come and go without increasing or diminishing the highest good, and neither subtract any part from the happy life nor add any part to it?

A man thus grounded must, whether he wills or not, necessarily be attended by constant cheerfulness and a joy that is deep and issues from deep within, since he finds delight in his own resources, and desires no joys greater than his inner joys.”


Essays and Letters

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Rachel Cusk, from Coventry: “Shakespeare’s Sisters”
Woman is filled with visions and yearnings that are never matched by reality; she has a power of visualisation, of imagination, that her lack of worldly power forever frustrates. Yes, she might produce literature out of this conflict in her being. But she is more likely to produce silence.
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This essay has been causing me so much anxiety that I basically refused to even think about starting it for weeks, but after talking it through with my therapist yesterday I have decided to set myself the manageable goal of trying to write five hundred words a day. This morning was a success! I finally broke through my initial writers block and managed to complete my introductory section. It’s not perfect but it’s a start and we all have to start somewhere. // 07.04.20

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Rachel Cusk, from Coventry: “Shakespeare’s Sisters”
A woman needs a room of her own to be able to write; thus her silence has been the silence of dispossession. Yet there is something still deeper and more mysterious in her silence, the mystery of her actual identity.
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Rachel Cusk, from Coventry: “I Am Nothing, I Am Everything”
Humanity had insisted that a link be forged between gods and mortals, but it was a long time before this new situation could be described: there were many rigid Madonnas to be painted, many stiff and gilded Annunciations, many primitive Nativities and stark Crucifixions before the connection could be made. Now the artist-individual could paint the subject-individual, the creature who contains everything – good and evil, truth and illusion, life and death – within himself. Now, at last, he could begin to capture reality.
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