I steal into their dreams," he said. "I steal into their most shameful thoughts, I'm in every shiver, every spasm of their souls, I steal into their hearts, I scrutinize their most fundamental beliefs, I scan their irrational impulses, their unspeakable emotions, I sleep in their lungs during the summer and their muscles during the winter, and all of this I do without the least effort, without intending to, without asking or seeking it out, without constraints, driven only by love and devotion.
When an artist is asked to speak about form, you expect something different than when a critic talks about it. Because you think that somewhere between sentences and words, the secret will slip out. I am trying to give you that secret; it isn't a secret at all, but it is building solidly, not using secrets. I had been trying to extend into metaphysical extension; that film is changing, metamorphic; that is, infinite; the idea that the movement of life is totally important rather than a single life. My films were built on an incline, an increase in intensity. I hoped to make a form which was infinite, the changingness of things. I thought I would want to find a total form which conveyed that sense, particularly in reference to an Oriental subject. My impression was: one is walking down a corridor of a hotel. One hears a sound, opens a door and a man is playing; one listens for three minutes and closes the door. The music went on before you opened the door and it continues after you close the door. There was neither beginning nor end. Western music increases in intensity to a climax and then resolves itself. Oriental music is infinite; it goes on and on. The Chinese theater goes on for hours and hours with time for lunch moving scenery, etc.
On the first of July, while Ariel sat on their blanket, gazing out at the sun-spangled water, Chyna tried to read a newspaper, but every story distressed her. War, rape, murder, robbery, politicians spewing hatred from all ends of the political spectrum. She read a movie review full of vicious ipse dixit criticism of the director and screenwriter, questioning their very right to create, and then turned to a woman columnist’s equally vitriolic attack on a novelist, none of it genuine criticism, merely venom, and she threw the paper in a trash can.
And now it struck me that all that matters in human existence is a certain intensity of consciousness, of meaning, and that we must discover the trick. When I bought this car, it had an automatic choke, and the damned thing would cut out almost as soon as I began driving, so that the engine would stop on the first hill into town. So our local garage fixed an ordinary hand-choke instead, and now I keep it out until the engine is warm enough to take the hills comfortably. But if I wake up in the morning with my mind cold and dull, there is no mental choke I can pull out until the engine is heated up. I often spend hours, or even days, trying to cudgel my brains into a state of intensity, trying to work up the inner-pressure to settle down to writing. To some extent, I have discovered the trick: ten minutes of intense, total concentration, involving the whole being—my muscles as well as my brain. As I do this—if no one interrupts me—I can almost watch the pressure of my consciousness rising, until things no longer seem dull and neutral. It is exactly like having your first drink of the evening—that warm glow that is not situated in the stomach, but in consciousness.And now the strange thing happened—a thing I cannot possibly convey to the reader, but which I can at least try to describe. The thought came to me that this was how Esmond had felt as he set out on his wanderjahre in 1765. And then two images fused together in my mind. One was of Esmond setting off in the coach from Limerick—something I had dreamed about in the night. The other was the image of the trees on Long Island, suddenly looking as if they were cast out of phosphor bronze, as Beverley bent over me. This latter image was very strong. I could smell Beverley’s scent, feel the warmth of her bare breast against my cheek. And with these two images came an explosion of delight. What human beings want is to achieve these moments of freshness and intensity, and not to lose them every time their attention wanders. They want continuity of consciousness. And supposing a man said to himself: ‘It is obvious that nothing is as important as this: from now on I shall devote my life to the search for this intensity and continuity . . .’?