Marina Abramovic in Belgrade

boing boing

/ JASMINA TESANOVIC / 10:44 AM FRI SEP 6, 2019

Marina Abramovic in Belgrade

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I have always liked Marina Abramovic, from her earliest works to the latest ones.

Many who knew her in the legendary early years of bitter struggle now resent her grand fame and success. They consider her commercialized, cosmopolitan, a celebrity artist recycling proven successes, but they’re all wrong. This is mere snob activity.
It’s possible to be the cliched, true artist who is permanently poor, pure, and out of touch with the entire material world, but art snobs never notice or praise these people. They’re too busy attacking Marina for not being like that. Oscar Wilde used to point out that snobs are a useful motor of society, propelling the fame machine by loudly including, excluding, over-praising and denouncing. Women artists might even get snobbishly confined to small pedestals and defined as muses rather than real artists.

But snobs will always lack Marina’s creativity and painful brilliance. I appreciate Marina’s direct and sharp attitude towards fame, glory, wealth, the female body and universal death. She confronts complex issues directly, in the world as it is, instead of accepting trends at face value. Her work will be noticed, disciples will follow her, but by that time she will already be elsewhere.

The grandma of performance art, as she calls herself, will soon be playing Maria Callas, the diva of opera, in her most famous death scenes. At Maria’s age, and with the portfolio and life-histories of Marina-and-Maria, I feel sure that is not only the best way, but the only way. Marina Abramovic and Yoko Ono are my role models for female living artists who have transcended the many threats of fame and glory, and prevailed over suffering.

So, Marina is returning to Belgrade

In September, after 45 years of exile, like a much-condemned heretic witch finally accepted as a goddess. At long last, a proper, large-scale show in the museum of modern art on the Danube, with a welcome from plenty of celebrities, friends and of course politicians. Naturally her long-time local foes and critics will be there to wave national flags.

This show will be a performance in and of itself: life is art and art is life, the conceptualist credo. In this case, a kind of Warhol ghost of the art-is-life of the former Yugoslavia, the Belgrade of Marina’s youth, that underground stage like an art-factory, neglected, obscure, weird, where three artists performed for an audience of two, and all recording was forbidden… This show will have the melancholy grandeur of the last volume of Proust’s memoirs of lost time.

Will these artists recognize others, see themselves after the wars, the gossip, the death of a nation, of a lost social order? Will they have the courage to say hello and goodbye to their past?

We will see!

I will be there, watching from the second row, while Marina will perform the story of her life, as she always does. When I last met her in Torino Italy, she offered a deeply sentimental speech which ended in tears, about her artistic credo. She said: I believe in telepathy, not in technology. Today she is doing some tech art, so I wonder how things have progressed with the telepathy. I am willing to trust her instinct even when she is wrong! Creatives are never exact, they are just daring.

In her recent public “Letter to Serbia,” the cover story for a local magazine, she says: I worked and lived in Belgrade for 29 years. I was coming back only to visit family. My last personal show here was 45 years ago. Now almost half a century later, I want to show, especially to the new generations, what I did all these years. And I want them to understand through my work how important it is to risk, how important it is to have seen the big picture and to have big dreams, notwithstanding everything.

In that public letter, she speaks about the importance of failed projects in order to find the path as an artist, about the need not to abandon the impossible. (I was already making a list of favorite projects that “failed,” the second-prize winners of shows that I curated. How often, with time, the second-prize reveals itself to be more prescient, more forward-looking and inventive, than the first prize that seemed such a clear winner).

Marina talks about her luck in discovering early on that performance is her way through art, either once, for a small public, or, today with an attentive worldwide audience. Especially, long performances can have the transformative energy of life itself. Performance is a living art, not a recording, like video or text. A performance can be re-enacted by other people, but they will be living it, not creating the artwork.

Marina says if she paid attention to what was written about her all these years, she would never have left her room. At age sixty, though, she proved that all she needs is a room, along with a couple of chairs. That was the famous performance “The Artist is Here” at the Museum of Modern Art, where she sat in a room and registered her presence, eye to eye, with her public. For days on end that other chair was never empty.

The Marina Abramovic show in Belgrade will be her biggest retrospective ever, and she is close to a popular sensation in contemporary Serbia. After decades of studiously pretending that she didn’t exist and had no significance, everybody knows and quotes her name, from politicians to the handyman. She and Novak Djokovic are the queen and king of the updated Serbian national image.

This art and sports mania may have an unhealthy air of Serbian royalty above the common unwashed herd, but I think we should embrace good news about Serbian culture, when it occurs. The Museum of Modern Art on the Danube has been a decaying ruin for years, but is recently re-opened as a beautiful space and place. So why not enjoy the Marina Olympics?

I happen to be a Serbian expatriate myself, the notorious activist and artist of a wretched Balkan country beset with too much history, but I can cheerfully admit that Marina Abramovic is global art-world royalty, and even Novak Djokovic can really whack a tennis ball. Who knows what the next, still-nameless Marina Abramovic is doing right now in her overlooked niche-space, somewhere in the cracks of the walls of our 21st century? In Belgrade a street artist can be a fairy queen, and only from the outskirts one can see the center. Only from a distance one can hit the target.

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Opstanak

http://revija.kolubara.info/sh/nova/tekst/3164/Opstanak.htm?fbclid=IwAR3-onGwODp-viKRXWMGx939cX99dxMStxtnU1J5JK6Tnhy6V_J7Pilw5sA

Sedim na vrhu brda i ne radim nista: nirvana, zen budizam, opuštanje mišića i bez misli. Oko mene samo šumske životinje, brze i vredne, za razliku od mene. To je njihov svet, ja sam im došla u goste. Gamižu mravi, veliki, poneki i polete: čuveni divčibarski mravi koji su nam pojeli krov od kuće. Zato sada i sedim na miru u trenutku u kome je nestala i struja, da ne pominjem kako su nam pre neki dan pukle cevi od vodovoda, zatim crkao bojler i veš masina.

Sve je to normalno i uobičajeno za ovo mesto sa mikroklimom usred mikroklime ruže vetrova gde su moji roditelji pre pedesetak godina podigli vikendicu, 77 kvadrata po JUS-u, ali opremljenu kao vasionski brod. Moja mama je bila pedijatar a moj otac inžinjer: pokrivali su svojim stilom i znanjem jedno veliko polje zvano preživljavanje, komotno, čak luksuzno.

Olivetti, ćirilični
Olivetti, ćirilični

Izgradili su i agregat za struju, jer struja često ovde nestaje, grejanje na struju i naftu, imali su malu ambulantu jer nije bilo javne i malu radionicu. Postali su poznati kao SOS centar za hitne slučajeve, a za vreme bobardovanja 1999. bili su određeni za generalštab na Divčibarama.

Lepo, teško i opet lepo. Dok sedim besposlena od silnog posla i truli krov mi pada nad glavom, pokušavam da racionalizujem kako se valja osloboditi tog materijalnog i emotivnog bremena danas, toliko godina kasnije, u nekim drugim okolnostima opet emergentnim kao sto su globalno zagrevanje, potrošačko drustvo i njegov raspad, ekološka kriza ili katastrofa. Šta sačuvati, šta baciti? Mudrost dizajnera Karima Rašida: Sačuvati iz prošlosti samo stvari:

koje imaju emotivnu vrednost
koje funkcinišu efikasno i svakodnevno
koje su lepe
Ostalo je otpad protoka vremena i balast pojedincu, od palate do kolibe.

Decenijama sakupljano
Decenijama sakupljano

I dok mirišem ovo malo vazduha magično čistog, iako proređenog, prustovski mi se vraćaju scene protoka vremena na ovom mestu, od ljudi do reči i događaja, predmeta čak. Ali onda shvatam da se neke stvari uopšte i nisu promenile: taj jak miris šume koji zagađuje i najmanji auto u daljini, i ti zvukovi kao simfonija sa naletima potpune tišine. Naravno, veverice, mravi, pauci, bube, žabe, ptice kukavice… tu su, nekako iste, možda su večna reinkarnacija uvek jedne te iste… Moj majstor na krovu, na pitanje šta da radimo protiv mrava koji su nam pojeli kuću, odgovara smireno: ništa, oni su tu više od vas.

Priv pasoš i to diplomatski
Priv pasoš i to diplomatski

Ta tišina i zvuci koji me plaše jer priroda više nije prirodna nama urbanima iz velikih prljavih gradova sada postaje čudo prirode, i eto neko se setio i ovde na Divčibarama da po ko zna koji put oproba sreću da podeli prirodu sa urbanima. I ranije je ovde bilo nekog pre svega seoskog i dečjeg turizma: godine 1984. u februaru bili smo zavejani sa gomilom dečice u hotelu Maljen nekoliko stotine metara od moje kuće i bacali su nam iz helikoptera keks i biskvite. Nekoliko nedelja smo bili pod metrima snega, ali na divnom suncu posle vejavice, bez struje, bez vode, na skijama, na pivskim gajbama pod nogama da ne propadnemo kad izadjemo kroz prozor iz kuće da lovimo hranu i vodu…Ovih godina zavejanost se rešava brže nego tada, poslednjih godina često i nema snega na Divčibarama ali zato ima mnogo vise žičara, kioska za iznajmljivanja opreme, i svega ostalog potrošackog, vruće rakije na stazama i domaćinske kuhinje, zaista domaćinske i ponekad zaboravljene tj izumrle.

Sada kada na svakom ćošku vidim neko novo zdanje, kada busevi voze na svakih nekoliko sati, kada postoji vozić koji kruzi planinom, kada postoji čak i Mountain festival muzike i etno svega… pitam se, šta bih volela da nestane, a šta da ostane. Opet prustovsko pitanje s obzirom na to da ne zavisi od mene, ali možda ima neke veze i sa mnom, tj. sa svima nama koji smo ovde već nekoliko decenija. Moja ćerka je ovde odrasla i nije bilo mnogo igračaka i provoda, osim konja i šetnji i lopte i ljuljaške; deca su bila iz lokalnih odmarališta, delila su skije i sendviče, a uveče išli u čuvenu Maljen diskoteku! Recimo to je ostalo nekako isto i ne bih ga menjala jer tako nečega nema nigde na svetu, to nije etno turizam niti eko turizam, to je šta jeste, identitet? Neka Divčibare ostanu Divčibare s tim naglaskom ljudi koji ako se ne varam odjednom postaje sličan naglasku mladih ljudi koji žive u Beogradu! Neka nestane i nestaje zatvorenost, provincijalizam, strah i nepoverenje koji su svi zajedno kao neka magla zamućivali perspektivu Divčibara.

Klabing u Valjevu
Klabing u Valjevu

Magla prava, koja su zapravo niski oblaci, neka pobedi zamagljenost uma i duha. Sećam se Žike Pavlovića čija deca i unuci još uvek dolaze u porodičnu kuću ovde na Divčibarama, kako me je vodio kroz tu maglu po uskim puteljcima pričajuci o Dragoslavljevoj rakiji najboljoj na planini, lokalnim celebrities i njihovim šumskim navikama. Sedeli smo do duboko u noć pijući i pričajući o stvarima koje se samo na Divčibarama mogu iskazati. What goes on in Divčibare stays in Divčibare. U Beogradu bi smo se ta ista ekipa samo ljubazno pozdravljali na ulici, izvan te magle, bez Dragoslavljeve rakije. Obični ljudi iako celebrities na Divčibarama u tim sedeljkama postajali su mitske ličnosti sa čuvenim rečenicama koje i dandanas pamtim: povodom istorijskih događaja dalekih ili budućih, od ratova do nacionalizma, smene vlasti, ubistava političara i novinara. Nikad neću do kraja shvatiti koliko od toga što sam čula zaista jeste bilo istina, ali znam sigurno da je tu bilo više istine u magli nego u javnosti. Još uvek sklapam mozaik sad već minulih događaja i ljudi koje je stvarnost opovrgla ili podržala. Good and bad guys čije se uloge lako smenjuju.

Alfred Hičkok i Jasmina Tešanović početkom 70ih u Milanu
Alfred Hičkok i Jasmina Tešanović početkom 70ih u Milanu

I čekajući i dalje da mi dođe struja, da se vratim kućnim poslovima, ribanju zarđalih polica, da se vrati signal mobilne telefonije i interneta i kontakta sa celim svetom gde sada i ja živim, gde žive svi moji mili i dragi…čekam i pomišljam, a šta ako ovo potraje? Ko zna zašto bi to bilo dobro, jednoga dana će ljudi plaćati sve više da ovako nešto potraje: splendid isolation i povratak prirodi. Zapravo već negde to i traže da sačuvaju. Dok Amazon gori nemoćno na drugom kraju naše izmaltretirane planete pomislih – možda je i dobro što Divčibare nemaju uvek struju.

Jasmina Tešanović je književnica i aktivistkinja, rođena u Beogradu.divcibare

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TransJesus in Prishtina

TransJesus Prishtina from Jasmina Tesanovic on Vimeo.

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DRUG-CA ZENA, SKC BELGRADE 1978

RAW FOOTAGE FROM THE FIRST INTERNATIONAL FEMINIST CONFERENCE IN EASTERN EUROPE , BELGRADE 1978
DRUG-ca ZENA, prva feministicka konferencija izvan zapada, kod nas u Beogradu SKC. Bila sam jedna od organizatorki i snimala: materjal je stajao u garazi, razmagnetisale su se trake, Sony trakas portable sistem sam kupila tada koji me je kostao vise nego da sam polozila kredit za stan! Onda nedavno dobre vile, al profesionalne, iz Friulija su mi trazile da prebace u nov format sve sto je ostalo od mojih traka, za dokumentaciju njihovu i nasu! Evo Drug-ca zena snimak…mnoge zene su umrle, neke nestale…slika je losa, al ton je dobar…materijal nije montiran…za sada stoji samo kao dokument
DRUG-ca Zena arhiv

Dunja Blazevic otvaranje Drug-ca Zena I, SKC 1978 from Jasmina Tesanovic on Vimeo.
DRUG-CA Zena II, Studentski kulturni centar, Beograd 1978/ 2 from Jasmina Tesanovic on Vimeo.
DRUG-CA III- SKC 1978 Beograd from Jasmina Tesanovic on Vimeo.
Drug CA ZENA 3 part 1 from Jasmina Tesanovic on Vimeo.
DRUG CA ZENA 3 part 2 from Jasmina Tesanovic on Vimeo.

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Ljubav je u sustini govorljivost: Nefertiti

The best art is lost art, recovered intro to my lost sony tape movie

Ljubav je u sustini govorljivost, 1978 Belgrade from Jasmina Tesanovic on Vimeo.
I made a remake in 2003
Nefertiti je bila ovde from Jasmina Tesanovic on Vimeo.

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20 years after

Published in Balkan Transitional Justice

Jasmina TesanovicAustinMarch 23, 2019
Author Jasmina Tesanovic started the first internet war diary while living in Belgrade when the NATO bombing of the Serbian capital began 20 years ago – a personal document of life-changing moments, extreme emotions, human kindness, survival and death.
Twenty years in peace are like 20 days of war. During the bombings of Serbia and Kosovo, I wrote from the point of view of any anonymous woman living her daily life in Belgrade, with children, friends… fishing for food, water, electricity, cigarettes… Necessity was the mother of invention, so I invented the first internet war diary, before bloggers or blogs existed. My war diary was spread through mailing lists virally, 20 years ago. ‘The Diary of a Political Idiot’ got me many friends and foes, and it changed my life.

The war diary began when the first planes flew over Belgrade, with these words:

“I hope we all survive this war, the bombs: the Serbs, the Albanians, the bad and the good guys, those who took up the arms, those who deserted, refugees going around the Kosovo woods and Belgrade’s refugees going around the streets with their children in arms, looking for nonexisting shelters, when the alarm for bombing sets off.”

Jasmina Tesanovic. Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Margery Epstein.

I remember life-changing moments in those days of war, when I learned about solidarity, human kindness, sharing, life and death. I remember a man on the bicycle who pedalled to my door from Novi Sad, 60 miles, in order to buy Hannah Arendt’s book, ‘The Origins of Totalitarianism’. My feminist publishing house had printed a mere 100 copies, because of shortages during the bombings.

I gave him the last remaining copy of the Arendt book for free, and then he asked me if he could take a shower since there was no running water in his town.

I remember my teenage daughter telling me rebelliously she that preferred to die with her best friend under a bridge, and not in a stuffy bomb shelter with her mom. I remember my women activists standing in Republic Square protesting against the Milosevic regime, and writing a collective message/poem; we all had our identity cards on us, in case we were attacked by soldiers or police. I remember those long nights of bombing that we spent down in our gypsy neighbour’s basement, drinking rakija and smoking her cigarettes instead of dosing ourselves on sleeping pills.

Those were days of crisis when emotions and survival mattered more than anything else, those were the days that we all learned that civilian habits do not matter in war, that we are all in the same trench when it comes to the violence of warlords.

I also learned that we don’t need many things we imagine we need, that money and consumerism are pretences, that electricity and running water are luxuries, that medicines are contraband and that our neighbours are not the people we believed they were. The human condition in the extremes of war was so simple: every day that we survived was a beautiful gift and every good night’s sleep was an orgy.

Twenty years afterwards, nowadays, I have friends from all over the world who write to me with fondness about how they came to know me. As electronic text, online, while I was in dire straits, writing my diary entries as if each day might be my last, roaming the city for electricity to charge my laptop, and phone lines to send my email… and a gas stove, so I could take raw meatballs out of my purse and fry them for my family.

Every day was similar, lived between air raid alarms, CNN and BBC satellite news and Serbian TV propaganda. During the bombing of the Belgrade TV building, 16 lives were lost, although the regime knew that NATO was certain to demolish that building. I had stored some of my own movie footage inside that stout television building, because I was trying to protect my best work, and of course the bombs obliterated it.

I also shot a new documentary during the bombing, for a German TV production. We filmed on the bridges of the Danube while NATO propaganda leaflets, written in broken Serbian, told us that the bridges were targets. Milosevic was bringing in buses of civilians to stand on the bridges as human shields.

Every day my bored teenage daughter cruised the streets with her school friends, unbeknownst to me, to gawk at the new bomb craters. The asylums were closed and every night, mentally ill patients came to my door. They had heard that I had publicly stated my fear of the bombs, and that I offered shelter, company and drinks to anyone who would admit that they were scared, too. Many people came with sleeping bags, people I will never forget, though I never saw them again.

The worst night came when a school nearby was bombed. Our house pitched and swayed from side to side; often I still have nightmares of those moments of vertigo, of the physical feeling of my home collapsing. My daughter still flinches when a tyre bursts.

But I also remember those kind people from the outskirts of Belgrade feeding us for free in the nearby market, and black market smugglers selling us their wondrous toilet paper and soap for few small coins.

I will never forget my guilt and responsibility for other people who were once my Yugoslav fellow citizens, now aliens and enemies, worse off than I was, persecuted, expelled and killed.

Civilians and force-drafted soldiers, often raw troops hardly of age, had to shoot and shell each other, while others had to skulk around as war deserters, and we hid them in the towns.

Today, many other wars in faraway places in the world are grinding on, with scenes of bombing and despair, the modern successors to what we went through. The global sanctions are worse than the explosions, for the deprivations are the ‘killers without a face’. My mother died because of a lack of antibiotics in her hospital. But wars in general have become routine: if you don’t know who the offender is, then it’s you.

However, then and now, I refuse to be categorised as the victim of the Other’s violence. If you don’t know who the victim is, then become a peace activist and find out.

Jasmina Tesanovic is an author, feminist, political activist, translator and filmmaker. Her book about life in Belgrade during the NATO bombing in 1999, ‘Diary of a Political Idiot’, was published by Granta.

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Diary On Time

On Time: One Year’s Diary of Small Truths

1.

1.1.2017

I have decided to write this diary as time goes by. My small observations as time passes…. New Year’s Eve is just a moment of a year’s time, and I am interested in every moment that a year can hold, for every fraction of a passing second is as novel, in its own way, as the New Year is…

I always dreamed of having an ability to stop time, for better or for worse, or better into better yet… The transformations, measured by small invisible changes… I feel these moments and see them because I want to do that. I have no large abstract time anymore, no grand histories but lived experience, heartbeats of time, ticking slowly, as drops of life, as drops of truth, of order inside a chaos, of shapes inside a black void…

Only now that youthful passions have subsided within me, can I seek out peace in the unvarnished truth. Even small truths, mere passing details of a tangled historic epic, for I am just letting time be… in its flow… A trail of existence to nothingness, or vice versa… To find simple and calm joy in this universe which gave me form, and is now giving me lived sensation while slowly absorbing my form back into its informal infinity, nothingness, non-being…

As a being in this universe I need silence and respect, words which are few, but thoughtful… They might be not words but gestures, sounds, leading toward dance and music; everything means something …Meaning abides in almost anything, if you sharpen your senses and feel, hear, think, let it flow…

I swooned in a rural hotel in the mountains of Serbia, where loudspeakers played Serbian songs of lamentation. I didn’t care for the hotel’s chosen soundtrack, so I put on my own earphones, I tried watching a movie on my computer, yet then, all of a sudden, I heard nothing, saw nothing, except for that hot wave of lamentation, the traditional sorrows of of my fatherhood, of my motherhood, of my sisterhood.

People like me, but dead and gone, except that the moon was new and beautiful next to a tiny shiny star in this clear mountain air above this small, modest, extravagantly grieving village. I felt more emotion than the individual soul can bear: I was myself and beyond.

I fear these profound feelings, like lunar tides. They take me nowhere in life, except to my buried past and the graves of my loved ones. I returned to Serbia as an adult because of that call, and then the painful tumble of lament became a violent war that I had to flee to survive. I fled not only falling bombs but my rising inner demons, reviving a past beyond my lifetime, setting modernity on fire. That ominous moment in 1.1.2017, at 17.00, in a village hotel in the clear mountain air, still lingers with me…

2

2.1.2017
I watch time go by like a careful cook watches the skin form on a pan of scalded milk. I feel time, I experience time, every tiny clue is a gift that reveals time’s passage…. The proverb says the watched pot never boils, but when you choose to watch that pot, there are really many simmering little clues in there, many, many.

3

7.1.2017

Time is like a medicine, a narcotic, an anesthetic, a blessing, a hug, a surge of warmth, the smell of a baked cake… The dream of happiness…. This feeling of time that marches in huge eons, and the atomic dust of the present instant… I sit entirely still, in order not to disturb the placid flow….

When the moment of death arrives, it will have that same placidity, I know… We live on the cliff-edge of happiness, but we die in peace jumping into the void… Poetry fails me when I strive to describe this awareness of life within time, of temporal existence…. Only now, after so many years of knowing time, can I separate the true feeling of time from life’s other sensational elements, people, places, objects, plants and animals, the sun, the moon, the stars…

4.

8.1.2017

Defense, that’s what it is, or the death drive maybe, a religion without a name, a yearning for peace and order in a chaotic, opaque cosmos… Defense, an act of conservation, a tall wall, barbed-wire barriers, that is my counting of the seconds with my body… No one can trespass and attack if I am perfectly still, and if the flow of time around me is entirely unperturbed, then I can never come to harm…. No haste, no waste, no dreadful hurry to the final end…

5.

9..1.2017

When I cook porridge, I can see time seething through the grains of nourishment, grain that will seethe inside my body and out of it, back to the earth again… Grains of time, little vessels of the here and now, boiling, softening, digesting, and so tasty, too. What joy, cooking harvested grain for breakfast, one more sustaining loop in this earthly cycle of passage …

6.

10.1.2017
As I walk, in continuous footsteps, I realize the disturbance to my peace of mind in this awareness of rhythm. To count time, to measure it, to make time expand, to waste time, to run the clock, stop the clock, whatever…

To measure time is a distortion of the sanctity of human life, the existential wholeness of our emotions, our entire experience. Being above, or even better below, one’s sense of self is safe, it is dull but productive: by being timed, I become a vessel, a machine, a time-bomb…. I might break, go haywire, explode or implode, because I am a human entity, not a schedule or a set of processes.

But being human, I do have a brain, so I can measure, plot, scheme, plan, control my thoughts, my motions, my emotions…

7.

12.1.2017
A turtle and a rabbit are passing some time together. The turtle is a fan of history, while the rabbit is a race contestant. The turtle taps the brakes, the rabbit hits the gas, but time rolls on anyway.

The turtle slowly lives out his century, while the rabbit lives fast, dies young and leaves a horde of children.

As night-time flowed through my dreaming brain I had a vision. It felt like some perfect insight, a fable, an animal Aesop folk-story… But it came without words. My visionary dream consisted only of the turtle and the rabbit. My dreaming brain could not slow down to pound out a series of sentences…the visionary dream just leapt by, my unconscious mind bounding and cavorting, dumping all rational meaning like so much abandoned baggage off the back of a speeding truck.

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