More Things

By Jack Fairman

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Takabb by Gunung Tan @deepseadepression1luv


The following diary entries discuss things that some may find difficult to read. I wrote these diary entries quite freely and in a way, they were really just for me (I did have in the back of my mind that I might publish them, although without certainty). Creating things for just yourself is something that Rick Rubin (record producer, author of The Creative Act: A Way of Being) touches on in his podcast with Andrew Huberman. He explains that you should create a work of art as though it is a diary entry, as though you are creating the work of art for yourself and yourself only. Considerations of who will see it or who will read it should not enter into the creative process and should only come later, once the work is complete. Aware that I am now going to publish this work, I went over and edited the original diary entries slightly, leaving out sections that were mainly full of harsh self-criticisms as well as adding or rewording certain sections for clarity. This is still my diary, just a slightly edited version which stays faithful to the feelings I had in the moment and articulates better the points being made. I deliberated over whether to even publish this second part because of how personal it became, but I think it is important for me to share this with you, and perhaps you may find it useful.


Look, I feel like I’m descending into total and complete madness. I can’t exactly describe what I have been feeling these last few hours but I thought just before that it feels like a manic high, a high that somebody with bipolar would feel. I sense that I have more medical conditions than just mild schizophrenia, and even that seems to be dissipating, or so it seems. But today I felt like I had completely lost my way, that this schizophrenic text is my final offering before I finally call it quits. Not really, but I feel like it, or at least felt like it, or had the thought that I might kill myself. Anyway, I feel like this text pretty much sums up how crazy and insane I am, and that I am totally and utterly deluded in thinking that anyone would ever want to read this or take anything away from reading this.

Apart from this descent into madness, I actually had a pretty decent day. I went to the QBD Bookshop in the Myer Centre to pick up a book on sex. I wanted an introductory text that would set me on my way into talking about the sex scenes in Poor Things and perhaps how that relates to wider sex theory. I mulled over a few titles, but finally chose Emily Ratajkowski’s memoir My Body. Not exactly the book I was looking for and I hesitantly took it to the front counter. I was greeted by a young woman who had only weeks prior helped me pick out some books on Christmas Eve that I was to give to my roommates for Christmas. I really like her, the young woman at QBD books, and she too likes Anne Carson, but I don’t know her name. She has sullen, green eyes and jet black hair and has the look of someone who is devilishly smart. I hope I cross paths with her in the near future (perhaps after I have finished this). Anyway, she said Ratajkowski’s book was a good start, while also pointing out some other authors that I should look out for, namely Foucault, Sedgwick, Butler and Friedman as well as Maggie Nelson’s book The Argonauts. I explained to her that I dislike reading dry, didactic, dense books. Only later did I realise why I hate reading them.

I had been criticising my recent readings for being too dry, boring, and didactic (as you might have read from my previous article “Poor Things and Other Things") yet I had never thought that perhaps it is not the books that are too dense and dry, but that in fact it is me who has a problem with reading. Ever since my psychotic episodes (which occurred around 5 years ago), I have found reading to be quite difficult. I find it difficult to understand or follow anything that is too complex or too dense and I find when I read these more difficult works that the whole experience is unbearably tiresome. Before my psychotic episodes I remember not having as much trouble with these sorts of texts. With this in mind, I can only feel like my brain is broken somehow. At times I feel, truly, like my brain is a sieve (I have actually heard others express the same sentiment). Everything sort of just passes through without memory. Nothing computes. It’s a shame, but I hope that I can work towards reading more difficult works (like Foucault) and in time find them enjoyable, like I once did.


I had this great dream last night where I learnt about how to be myself. I think that is my biggest struggle at the moment, to be fully honest with myself and to ‘just be myself’. I have died and been reborn again many times, and I am not seeking to reprise the corpse of a previous life. Instead, I look towards forming a self that is looking forward to a new future with new possibilities. It’s strange because ever since my psychotic episodes, I feel like I have never truly been myself. Every day I would hear people say things, things I didn’t agree with, and I wouldn’t speak up with how I really felt. I’d hear myself say things and not really believe the words I was saying. I would act in a way that was dishonest to myself, and perhaps, dishonest to my soul. I feel like my soul has been repressed, and now, it wants to spread its wings. There have been rare moments when my soul has broken through the mask of my current self, which I have realised, perhaps most strongly today due to my dream last night, is a ‘false’ self, and at the moment this ‘false’ self feels like a cancer, like a Strangler Fig eating out my insides. My soul is being tortured, every day, with almost every interaction. It is extremely difficult to know exactly who this more ‘true’ self really is (and perhaps it is still a work in progress), but there is at least an ill-feeling whenever I feel I am not being ‘myself’. My consistent, daily repression of words (which go unsaid), of actions not taken (which go unnoticed in silence), of things not being done the way I want them to (to avoid conflict), has strengthened the vice-like grip of this ‘false’ self. This ‘false’ self has become so enmeshed with my psyche that I almost believe it to be a part of who I am. Like Wormtongue whispering into King Theoden’s ear, this false self poisons my soul and turns me into someone I’m not. My soul is I need of nourishment, and doing nothing and saying nothing has only served to keep it within the vice of this false self. Not being true to yourself, every day, for many years, is like watching yourself die, every day, by your own hand. I have been dead for many years, and am now only starting to feel alive once more.


Today I feel like I am Selma in Dancer in the Dark. Me, writing this criticism now, is somehow a window of hope for a better future. Another part of me thinks of how this writing is of no use and that I am utterly deluded in thinking that any of this drivel could lead to a serious career. And another part thinks that I will commit suicide in 10 years, and that these reflections will be discovered a decade later, exposing the troubles of a misunderstood genius of our times. And I say all this in the context that I feel like Selma from Dancer in the Dark.

If you haven’t seen Dancer in the Dark, the film follows a young woman, Selma, who is going blind due to a degenerative eye disease. Her adolescent son, Gene, suffers from the same condition and is going blind too. Selma and Gene live in a small caravan on the outskirts of a small town. Selma commutes by bike to work, which is a factory that makes aluminium tubs. Selma saves up the money from her job at the factory to go towards paying for a surgery that could cure Gene’s eye disease. In her off time, Selma performs skits and small plays as part of a theatre troupe, and dreams that one day she will go to Broadway and perform on the big stage.

I don’t know if there is a word for this, but what is that feeling you get when you completely empathise with someone, say a loved one, and you hear them say that this is their dream or this is their goal, and deep down, you feel like it’s just not gonna happen, that they just aren’t cut out for it, or that maybe they should be more realistic and try to aim for something smaller, or even to try something else. ‘Pity’ is the word I think of. Yet ‘pity’ doesn’t seem to explain the feeling very well. “Feelings are abstract” as my friend Rebecca Gough pointed out in my film Chartreuse and Other Colours, and perhaps this feeling is too abstract to really define. I had this feeling throughout my time watching Dancer in the Dark. It was a feeling I felt towards Selma. She had these big, big dreams in such a small town. The best I can do to describe this feeling is ‘melancholic’. It is a feeling that, from time to time, I feel towards myself.

I get this feeling that what I dream of may never come true, that I am delusional, and I am not being realistic. And these dreams aren’t necessarily big dreams like Selma’s. They are quite modest, I think. Things like moving to another city, taking up a teaching role at a university, having kids, or having a girlfriend. I am aware that I could be totally delusional in thinking that these reflections I am writing now will somehow lead me to these dreams, but perhaps it takes time. If throughout reading any of these reflections you have felt this feeling of melancholic ‘pity’ (although that doesn’t sum it up as I’ve mentioned), just know that I am fully aware of it, and for now, I will keep going like Selma did.


To go back to what I was saying about possibly being viewed as a “misunderstood genius” after I commit suicide (btw I was really saying that in jest to make a point, although I’m sure there is a bone in my body that leaps at the chance to call itself as being the bone of a genius (and yes I am suicidal but am not planning on committing suicide)) I think of the Norwegian painter, Lars Hertevig, who suffered from mental illness and died poor in 1902. He was the main character of Jon Fosse’s novel Melancholy I, which I have read and have mentioned before, however, I have never explicitly mentioned Lars. I feel deeply connected to Lars in many ways. He suffered from paranoia, delusions and hallucinations, like I did, was bullied by his peers, like I was, and was misunderstood by everyone he knew, like I feel like a lot of the time. All he wanted to do was paint, and yet nobody could see the beauty in his soul and what he could offer the world.

Lars was born in the year 1830 in Borgøya, Norway. His family were poor, Quaker farmers who resided in the city of Stavanger, located on the west coast of Norway. After showing much promise of his artistic abilities early on, at age 22, with the help of well-to-do citizens of his hometown, he moved to Düsseldorf to study painting under the tutelage of revered Norwegian romanticist painter, Hans Gude, at the Arts Academy of Düsseldorf. Gude noted that out of all of his students, Lars “shows more promise than any other.”

After a few years in Düsseldorf, Lars became ill. He started to experience hallucinations and delusions and became suspicious of his colleagues (this period of Lars’ life is captured in Melancholy I). In 1854, after a cruel prank played on him by his peers from the Arts Academy, he experienced a mental breakdown. He moved back to the Stavanger area, and shortly afterwards, in 1856, Lars voluntarily admitted himself to Gaustad Asylum, located near current-day Oslo. Due to an “insufficient treatment program” (Sparebankstiftelsen, 2015) he was sent back to Stavanger, and then eventually moved back to his town of birth, Borgøya, where he lived with his uncle until 1865. For the last 30 years of his life he struggled financially, and would eventually end up in a poorhouse. “He could not afford to paint with oil on canvas, and several works from this period are watercolours and gouache on paper not meant for painting, sometimes using bits of papers glued together with homemade rye flour paste.” ("Lars Hertervig," 2022). The works from this period are his most famous works. His artistic breakthrough would not come until over a decade after his death with the 1914 Jubilee Exhibition in Kristiania (now Oslo).

I empathise with Lars a great deal. I really see myself in him. His is such a sad story, and at times, I feel like mine is too. I too, showed promise once. I was Vice-Captain of Anglican Church Grammar School, a prestigious all-boys school located in Brisbane, Australia. I was a high-achieving student and was very fit and athletic and liked to play sport (football and track and field). After school I studied engineering for a year before studying architecture at The University of Queensland. Although I enjoyed architecture, and perhaps could have become an architect, I had dreams of becoming a film director. Heeding the advise of Terry Gilliam, I did not study film and instead studied architecture. Things were looking bright. I was a very charming, enthusiastic young man and had close relationships with many of my peers in architecture school. I was very outgoing and social and would go to things like talks and exhibitions and would read a great deal. Yet, after a good first year in architecture school, I started to struggle to apply myself to study. I started taking a lot of drugs, and my desire to make films became a constant distraction to my application to architecture. In my second and third years, I ended up failing almost all of my courses, and decided to take some time off from study. It was around this time that I had a series of psychotic episodes. I would have been about 24 at the time. Without going into much detail, for many years after these episodes, I suffered from intense paranoia and delusions and was eventually diagnosed with mild schizophrenia. Ever since then I have been on a road to recovery. With the unwavering care and support of my sister Rachel, I was able to see the right people and the right medical professionals to guide me through a particularly difficult time in my life. The road has been a long one, and my mental health is still a work in progress, but to write this reflection now, as though my mental illness is somewhat behind me, fills me with optimism.

There are times when I can’t help but think of where I once was and the promise I showed earlier on in my life. I compare that time to where I am now, which is working at the pub, and I didn’t think I’d be working at a pub at 29. I see my friends working good jobs earning good money, and there’s a part of me that feels somewhat ashamed of where I am in relation to them and in relation to that past self that seemed to have the world at their feet. But for whatever reason, things happened, and I am a totally different person today to who I was then. I am happy with where I am today. I am happily a Selma or a Lars today because, at the very least, they had hope, and hope is all I’ve got right now. And sometimes, hope is all we really have.


This will probably be my last entry for this essay/journal. There are a few things I wrote down on the trip that I’d like to get to (which has to do with a completely new investigation) and it seems like I have covered a lot of ground already. These diary entries have been very personal and I do not share them lightly, but I hope you might have taken something away from it, and at the very least, I hope they have been interesting to read.

As I got off the plane this afternoon, a young boy asked me what book I was reading during the flight. I told him I’d show him, and so I reached down and took the book out of my bag. I then showed him the cover. In that moment I’d actually forgotten the title of the book and only briefly looked down to see the only word I really remembered printed in big letters: “Aesthetics”. The books title, which I’ve now looked up, is Introducing Aesthetics: A Graphic Guide. I leafed through the book in front of the young boy and he seemed pretty thrilled by the cool illustrations. I decided to offer it to him as I had just finished reading it while I was on the plane. He gladly accepted and thanked me. This leads me onto my next investigation, which will have something to do with aesthetics and the aesthetics of art on social media.


Why can't I just be normal
Why can't I be more normal
Why can't I just be more normal
Why am I the way I am
Why couldn't I just be normal
Why couldn't I have been just normal
Why was I so mean as a kid
Why did I bully my brother
Why couldn't I just be normal
Like every other kid
Why can't I just be normal
Why am I so abnormal

Sometimes I wish I were more normal
Sometimes I say things and think how weird that was
Sometimes I don't believe the words I'm saying
Sometimes I don't know who I am
Sometimes I wish I were normal
Because sometimes I act weird
Because sometimes I say weird things
Things that a normal person wouldn't say
And people laugh at me not with me
People laugh at me and not with me because I am not normal
People laugh at me because what I said was weird
People laugh at me because I am not normal and I said something weird
Fair enough
I would too


Onto the next.