Must Proceed

"I'm absolutely dedicated and addicted to the artistic process. I think it serves–this is the over-the-top part–I think it serves all of humanity. Don't you? Don't you think so?" 

Barron Storey


HIM: The average "painter" "sculptor" "poet" "composer" "playwright" is a person who cannot leap through a hoop from the back of a galloping horse, make people laugh with a clown's mouth, orchestrate twenty lions. 

ME: Indeed. 

HIM (To her): But imagine a human being who balances three chairs, one on top of another, on a wire, eighty feet in the air, with no net underneath, and then climbs into the top chair, sits down, and begins to swing...

ME (Shudders): I'm glad I never saw that–makes me dizzy just to think of it. 

HIM (Quietly): I never saw that either.

ME: Because nobody can do it.

HIM: Because I am that. But in another way, it's all I ever see.

ME: What is?

HIM (Pacing up and down): This: I feel only one thing, I have only one conviction; it sits on three chairs in Heaven. Sometimes I look at it with terror: it is such a perfect acrobat! The three chairs are three facts–it will quickly kick them out from under itself and will stand on air; an in that moment (because everyone will be disappointed) everyone will applaud.

Meanwhile, some thousands of miles over everyone's head, over a billion empty faces, it rocks carefully and smilingly on three things, on three facts, on: I am an Artist, I am a Man, I am  Failure–it rocks and it swings and it smiles and it does not collapse tumble or die because it pays no attention to anything except itself. (Passionately) I feel, I am aware–every minute, every instant, I watch this trick, I am this trick, I sway–selfish and smiling and careful–above all the people. (To himself) And always I am repeating a dark and little formula...always myself mutters and remutters a trivial colourless microscopic idiom–I breathe, and I swing; and I whisper: "An artist, a man, a failure, MUST PROCEED."

ME (Timidly, after a short pause): This thing or person who is you, who does not pay attention to anyone else, it will stand on air? 

HIM: On air. Above the faces, lives, screams–suddenly. Easily: alone.        


Cummings, E. E. (1927). Him. New York: Boni & Liveright. (library)