Archive for the ‘The Devil and Daniel Johnston’ Category

More notes on the basis for change

September 4, 2009

Last night I watched The Devil and Daniel Johnston, there were two things that stayed with me, because I’d just earlier come across very similar things.

I’d referred to a common acquaintance as a sufferer, as in , that person is a sufferer, and the person I was talking with asked if that were a “term”, like if it were something I’d just made up it wasn’t worth coining, as thought the drawing of distinctions, the minting of terms is a practice only for the hands of professional, those entitled (say PhD) to make changes to the language, of course sufferer is a common word with a fairly generally accepted meaning. Anyway, watching the documentary there’s a look at his art, and Johnson has drawn a pun on the silver surfer, as the silver sufferer. So yes, sufferer is a term. The most well known sufferer is Jesus, you may have heard of him, here’s God, the perfect agent. He can raise the dead, turn water into wine, feed a multitude with a few bits of food, walk on water, and is one with the power that created heaven and earth, but His hands are tied (nailed to the cross) when it comes to social change. Jesus suffers the sins of man. For this powerful agency to choose to suffer is a testament to the desire for suffering, the acceptance of the sins of man, the ultimate powerlessness in the face of contemporary action. So yes, sufferer is a term, and a sufferer is the antithesis of Camus’ Sisyphus who we are reminded to imagine as happy in his travails (not suffering them.)

The second was an idea that Daniel Johnson has chosen his story, that his illness may have been an expression of a creative narrative. I’d earlier in the week read an article in the Utne magazine by Lorrie Klosterman, that was an interview with someone who saw narrative and healing as linked. We are all aware of Language as a virus. There are t-shirts. But the physiological affect of the word, the word literally and physically becoming flesh, is a necessary understanding for anyone who desires change.

Walter Benjamin also speaks of the storyteller as  giving as counsel.