Raffaëlli and Augustine

This past weekend I returned home to the Bay Area, to San Francisco. Here at High Sierra, the 40 of us are surrounded by each other at all times. The friendships here are incredible and each one is unique in it’s own way. Whether it’s throwing machetes at each other, having a snow ball fight, or building a fire in the meeting hall at the first snow, friendships all strive in different ways. In San Francisco we had the opportunity to venture forth on our own, and experience the city, separating ourselves from constant interaction with the same friends.

Among our ventures in SF, we also had the opportunity to visit the Legion of Honor, De-Young, and MOMA. In the Legion of Honor, I came across a piece of art titled “The Absinthe Drinkers”.

Raffaëlli's "The Absinthe Drinkers"


I stared at this work for quite sometime, switching back and forth between the two faces of hopelessness, revolt, and abandonment. I recognized the faces of those two men. Those two men were entirely me, split in two. These two friends, in their enjoyment and exploration of absinthe were me. Those are my faces.

Raffaëlli seems to be playing the childhood game of telephone with Augustine, doing his best to be as veracious as possible to the inward workings of Augustine’s soul. By no means am I suggesting that this was the original intent of Raffaëlli, but we can dream can’t we? Augustine writes “The single desire that dominated my search for delight was simply to love and to be loved.” ‘The Absinthe Drinkers’ speaks true to this. These men, feel it. They feel the abandonment, the feeling of not quite here and not quite there. I feel this.

I long to be loved, but I don’t know how to be. I am neither here nor there. I do my best to love others, and know full well the process that both literature and film present to myself, but have trouble in the acceptance of it. I desire to be valued, to be with a friend, to feel wanted. I want to rest in the peace that I have love raining down like gold. (Not to get me pregnant of course. Zeus anyone?) I want to feel it. But I don’t.

With the drinkers I sit, disillusioned by everything around me. Like a philosopher zombie I have no certainty of thoughts of others, for I can only know my own. I can poke around and be poked and respond and see responses but be only certain of myself, which I in fact find no certainty at all. Like these men I feel the abandonment, the regret, and even the hallucinations. I see things that aren’t there and don’t feel what is there. I have been ‘fruitlessly divided, from unity to multiplicity’, caught in this ever increasing tension. But I’m tired. And desire both to be loved and learn how to be loved. In the words of Wakefield, “I, have not yet rested. It takes a long time to make love with someone who hates themselves.” Rest.

But joy is in the suffering I’m told. After all, “Tears and agonies, therefore are the objects of love.” So I guess I’m receiving more love than I could have ever imagined. Right along side the whole world. And there’s peace in that.

About bryanmuirhead

I write, read, talk, listen, teach, learn, draw, take pictures, love, run, walk, and think, but I feel dead more than I feel alive.
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3 Responses to Raffaëlli and Augustine

  1. Your words flow like water.

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