Ask Jenny

The Origin Of Cubism

September 14, 2019

This is a short journal ramble I wrote in February 2019.

If I asked you to describe yourself in one word, you would:

  1. avoid the question and tell me how other people describe you;
  2. say instead what you strive to be;
  3. ad-lib a cohesive story about a word that ties together your most recent narcissisms, even though deep down you know it’s not holistic;
  4. admit that it’s useless because it’s impossible!

Whichever way, I agree. Maybe it’s presumptuous to think that someone can’t have that one honest word just because you and I haven’t found The One. I’ve collected many contenders: friendly, positive, naive, average, nervous, responsible, stubborn. I might be cynical, compassionate, silly, manic, aloof, proud, sad, stressed, shy, talkative, carefree. You skimmed through those words, or else noticed the contradictions. There’s our common habit. We either skim through people, walking right by in deliberate ignorance, in the street, hallway, newsfeed. When we’ve concluded that there’s nothing more to pique or peek, we assign a word, and then keep a friendly distance. The other case is more exciting at first, but just as ill-fated. You meet a person with the glint of one rare contradiction, some kaleidoscopic quality, a flower that bloomed in space. As you continue to meet them, intimacy envelops you into that person’s growth, and not growth as in the growing process exactly, but growth as in their tumors. For every flower, you notice a polyp. Most of us come to be by complete accident because we don’t try as hard as we should to become certain words on purpose. You, like me, are a running list of jumbled qualities, some accidental and some intentional, separated by commas, moods, friends that come and go. I’d certainly prefer one honest word, but I haven’t figured out how to package petals with polyps in a flattering way. Did you know that the Cubists tried? They introduced the idea that an object is the sum of many different views by fusing contradictory observations and memories into one painting. Picasso made money because he was Picasso, but most cubism didn’t sell at first because these portraits weren’t typically beautiful. That’s the joke! Mix all the colors together and you get a poopy brown. I’m as elusive as you, as beautiful, as not. Still, one day I hope to welcome and accept one descriptor. For now, I’ve decided the word I will use to describe myself and everyone else is “fortunately,” as in, “I’m not as sad as Sylvia Plath, fortunately,” or, “you’re not as crazy as Ted Bundy, fortunately!”

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1 comment on “The Origin Of Cubism”

  1. fortune, borrowed from Old French fortune, from Latin fortuna (“fate, luck”). The plural form fortunae meant “possessions”, which also gave fortune the meaning of “riches”

    rich in all the paradoxical qualities you possess at once!