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ESSAY / Does writing have a healing power – by mentioning the transience, loneliness and beauty of life? And is it only possible for us to live together by ostracizing the others? If the personal is the real thing, then that is not the goal – but rather to be able to come to light of the impersonal.


Lonely places are common places. Places that wait for us and live in us. Out there where loneliness cancels ensomhedone. Out there where I no longer have to pretend. Where the world answers back and it becomes possible to hear something because I am actually not alone and never have been. Places that show us that we have actually once been connected to something other than ourselves.

As if we have replaced the real truths, which are always demanding and uncomfortable, with a social truth? In the sauna by the Øresund, I hear people talking about their innermost, the private, in full public. You don't whisper, you speak, loudly. To confess to an invisible judge, to be seen without being seen. Confess his intimate confidences, idiotic disappointments, sanguine hopes. Talking and sucking each other's blood, always in search of the lost heart point, the childhood, the innermost.

Every day we rewind the film to catch a glimpse of our own reflection. Listening to the same ringtone, looking at the same smiley, a picture, a life that disappears like a dot in a black hole before the day is over. The imitation looks like a defensive defense, the superiority of closedness. A scream at the bottom of a self-satisfied four-night beer, the weary hunger for a little electronic clock flickering. The scourge of youth, with its demand for a place in the sun, lives on as small image seeds far into the ranks of adults.

The beautiful youth, the adult who wants to be forever young: I see him everywhere, on the street, in the cafes, behind the screen, in the galleries, in the park houses, in the open office landscapes: delicious, smooth, in control. Sometimes I think that loneliness is nothing more than a word for self-control, for the emptiness you can only live with by numbing yourself. But you also get tired of that, it also settles in the body. As the years go by, I think that my father did not die of suicide but of exhaustion. No longer to be moved by anything but to be chained to oneself, one's own prosperity, a pain without life. Has it become too demanding for us to gain an understanding of what is going on in other people's lives? Do we shy away from making the effort? What makes us lonely.

A silent order

With one's own youth the world begins, the terrifying notion of a common future where one's own life lies far away. Where one must beautify, glorify, be ridiculous and adorable while pulling towards the distance. And what do you discover? That loneliness is out there, but we create it ourselves. That's what you've always known. The body knows it. The cells know it. The landscape knows it. The desert flowers know it. What are called opposites live within a certain scale and all so-called opposites have a common scale. I don't know which came first. No longer accept the separation as a ready-made answer to loneliness, but dive into the separation to spot something we cannot be without. Something that has already been removed and that we cannot take back.

The tired hunger for a little electronic clock flicker.

Solitude is a silent order that does not conform to any object.

From the green bell on my desk to a black and white photo of an Arab beggar seen through a huge city gate overlooking the city below. The sound of the circular prayer of the desert orchestra in front of the extinguished oasis, the repetitive movement that breaks with every direction, to the unmanageable silence that follows.

In a note made a few years after he wrote his first novel about the married couple Kit and Port traveling through the desert, Paul Bowles writes about what he calls the baptism of loneliness. What happens to those who venture into the desert. You get to a point where you can't do it anymore. When a person has been spellbound by the supreme solitude, it cannot be compared to any other feeling. He or she will have a sense of existing in the middle of something that, for lack of better, can be called 'absolute'. Once you have been gripped by this condition you are. Had to return to this place, to the vast silence. There is nothing else that can compare to this experience.

About fourteen years old

In the old cultures, children were sent out into the forests or onto the steppes when they were about fourteen years old. Here they were alone with the animals and the stars. Alone with himself. Days of exercises in seeing in the dark, deciphering the tracks of alien creatures, hearing the sounds that always came from afar, sitting completely still under the open sky, waiting for an animal, waiting for another side of oneself. Walkabout is what they call it on the other side of the world.

I think that my father did not die of suicide but of exhaustion. No longer being able to be moved by anything but being chained to oneself, one's own
prosperity, a pain without life.

No longer accepting the feeling of being left out because we are already connected. Images of refugee families waiting at the railway station, the vulnerable faces, and the train moving away towards the promised land and the agonizing struggle between hope and despair as an inexplicable feeling of envy spreads through my body, to envy these lost people, the wonderful the ability to be completely open to another and unknown life, the impossible faith, the faith like a strange silent fog no one can take away from them. The loneliness that occurs because it is only possible for us to live together by ostracizing the others. Maybe because our ridiculous defense mechanisms against the wretched of this world are nothing more than a cover for the fact that we are in the same boat?

Man does not give himself up so easily. Not even his face. But maybe it's because it has to learn to live with loneliness? Because it is he who has something to tell us. Things are perhaps better than us humans to leave the world temporarily, in deep solitude, to find its weight, its lightness? A good work of art does not overflow, does not give itself away, but holds on to something, possesses its own distance, floats through time, as it were, again and again. It has no beauty without also being alone.

My freedom from God

I have what I need, clothes, light, water and bread. Freedom from a God. My simple existence. Like when I lay down in a fragrant summer meadow and felt one with my body. My mother could no longer reach me. As if I just wanted to be alone, with God, another God. Pervaded by light. Like a little saint. Isn't that better than mom? What kind of look is it that holds the world together? That's what I'm trying to understand. The mother's gaze that is so old, with pupils so dark. In a worn body that wants to be young. Who will soon die. All that she could tell, but which she cannot remember. Everything that is not allowed to happen, that could be said. If anyone can say so. If you want. I believe that not being able to express yourself is also a form of violence.

I'm not waiting for anything. Or maybe I do without knowing? Who does not do that? Maybe the only way to wait? Like a secret and painful happiness. It's a long time ago. As humans, we run from ourselves. Someone does it their whole life. It is not sufficient to justify it by having a bad childhood. There are so many who have. It is not enough to park one's ills in an unhappy childhood. But there are those who continue to run away, all their lives. They don't have to think. They also avoid feeling the weight of life and thus the lightness of life, which is something other than carefree.

My own son

There are no more heroes left as I read in an article after David Bowie's death. The epic hero may be gone, replaced by the restless seeker who moves back and forth without getting anywhere – forever searching for an escape from daily boredom. Still, I've asked myself what the difference is between a true rebellion and the day when a young person learns to fly away, to break free, to have their nipples crushed.

There comes a time when it is too late to return home, to the house, to the summer days, to childhood.

My own son is ready to fly and I myself am on my way to another place. He's walking away while I practice finding a new move. We have just said goodbye to each other. It is his turn to create the distance that I have often used myself while I have been away. Which was my way of being able to see him, them, the family, everyday life. Return to my son, see him with new eyes. Now it's his turn. He will grow in a new way. The child will learn while I'm not looking. The world is being completed every single day while you are not looking. One day you will meet him in a dingy cafe. And you will talk about the travels, about the literature, about the music, while people pass by, and you discover that the world is completed right here, and therefore you also discover all the other days, the life and the music and the loneliness behind the closed rooms.

And you will think back: On the days when you sat on opposite sides of the wall, he who played, you who wrote, he who hummed, you who read, both thinking and dreaming. How straightforward the world can be, you think, as you sit and listen to him talk about his life, so straightforward that it all catches you by surprise. Summarizing life in a picture, in the music, in a changing light on a Greek island, a cool night, the one that returns, like when I sat in the same street in a cafe a little further down and thought similar thoughts about what I should and why. He takes a bite of his sandwich as he nods. Seems so clear. You will notice his bony shoulders, his long arms, the long fingers that have a sure grip. The hand holding the guitar. The fingers that move across the shaft. The arm that holds music and life close to the body. Take care of yourself. There keeps distance, keeps again, passionately. Because that and he's still young. A man can also be young.

The old cottage

My parents' old summer house by Sejerø Bay: I was listed on the plot a year after the house had been sold. Assumed that the new owner had gutted the house. But it was as it was then. An extended scout hut surrounded by dried heather and peeled fir trees. I had entered the grounds and stood looking through the patio doors straight into the living room. All the furniture from the terrace, the bench, the barbecue, the white plastic chairs, were piled on top of each other, up to the ceiling. The whole living room filled to the brim with piles of rags and things and random boards, as if preparing for a fire. Ready for someone to come and strike a match and set the whole thing on fire. Maybe they were waiting for someone to come and tear it down? I stand and look. Considering what was once my stuff, possessions, a pile of comics under a table, Lucky Luke in the shadow of the table tower, just lying there, as if these things exist without any relation, what someone once actually cared for, read in, played with with. Next to chairs and benches that I have lain on, that others have since sat or jumped in, converted into a cave.

What happens to those who venture into the desert.

I wonder when such things will begin to affect us again. Don't know when you start forgetting to learn to remember in new ways. It's a long time ago. It has been a long time since I moved through the desert. Didn't I write about this in my first book? Who do you shout at? Are the children yelling at the parents or the parents yelling at the children? And there comes a time when it is too late to return home, return to what once was, to the house, to the summer days, to childhood, into the long winding driveway in the tall grass, the sight of the woodpile, the black color of the wood, the red wheelbarrow that always stands out next to the faucet up the house. Where you stand and can hear the sound of a lawnmower, a badminton racket hitting a shuttlecock, heavy glasses crashing against each other as someone removes the table. Afterwards the sound of a fly being masted against a window. The reverence of things. Out there on the border, in the garden where I am, there I stand and look while a voice says: Everything passes by. The good and the evil. The joy and the sorrow.

Carrying a secret

In some old notes I come across an anecdote told by the Chilean film director Raul Ruiz. About how as a child in Santiago he could spend the whole afternoon in a cinema where they showed several films one after the other, often American B-movies. He could fall asleep during a western and wake up in the middle of a pirate movie. But they were the same actors, and he had a strange feeling that a metamorphosis was taking place, that one world was intervening in another. Later, as an adult, during a visit to a bar in Lisbon, he met a film electrician who tried to explain to him the diverse soul of the Portuguese. This one Ruiz told that every Portuguese carries a secret of importance to him and to him alone. For example, knowledge of the exact depth of a hole in the wall down a dark corridor in an abandoned and dilapidated house. All his actions in life must be organized around this jealously guarded secret.

I think that we each carry a secret, but that it is only when they appear in the physical things, in the face, in one's hallway, in a dilapidated house, the path up by the cottage, that it dawns on us. With the diary, I try to move down a dark corridor in an abandoned house, to where the lost ghosts live. Inside the sleeping body, where sleep begins, where language breaks out of its prison.


This is how we live in the post-apocalypse

I go for a walk with my friend the actor. We cycle out to little Heligoland to swim. We wind our way in and out between the many new buildings. Several of the houses are only a few meters apart. He points to the old house, the last of its kind left standing, now relegated to a backyard backdrop. He himself bought his apartment in 2010. He tells me that at that time there were many old smaller houses in the area, small workshops, craftsmen, children playing in the spaces. Life. All this is gone, he says. Since I moved here, he says, building investors have bought up plots and sold them to private developers and built tall houses that look like the Costa del Sol in the eighties – I live in a tourist park under constant reconstruction.

We drive past a slightly lower block of flats where parties are held with cocktail drinks and pounding music. All around on the roads are expensive cars, black steak cars as I call them, cars that are about to replace the Danish car fleet, cars that are well suited to the Canadian wilderness.

He says he has long had the experience of living in a time just before things collapse. Everything that has held us up is slipping away. In fact, we are in the age of mass extinction, but it is not really something that bites us. It is as if modern man here at the beginning of the new millennium has achieved what he came for. A comfortable life. A technologically framed life. A life where everything is available, here and now. In this life man has reached his goal. The life we ​​live is, in a way, the end of history. We say we have left religion, but instead we have created our own counter-religion, ... a new sense of transcendence where we can be 'at home', somewhere other than where we live with matter, earth and hardships. We are at home somewhere else, within ourselves, away from the world and the earth. A counter-religion that says: you er arrived in another world. A definitive time, an absolute time, a pure present, a modern world. As such, we live in the post-apocalypse, after the end.

In the Jewish and Christian religions, people also talked about the last times, about the apocalypse, but there they lived in expectation of something to come, a new beginning, another time, and the time itself was marked by unrest, sorrow, crisis, the last turmoil of the times. People would not be able to get up in the morning in the same way as before. They would not be able to do as they used to: «People want to settle down. Only in so far as they are in turmoil is there any hope for them … only what is to come is sacred,” writes Emerson. But we obviously have no problems, don't really feel anything. The ground is shaking, but vi do not do. Everything is an open question, but vi is not affected by doubt.

I think of the ancient Gnostics who spoke of the light that comes not from ourselves or from the world, but from the cosmos. As a counterpoint that situates us in a larger world. Connected with forces that destroy and create, annihilate and produce.

Both texts are excerpts from the book: The lighting. A diary (Forlaget Spring, 2023).
Printed with permission from the author.

Alexander Carnera
Alexander Carnera
Carnera is a freelance writer living in Copenhagen.

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