A good friend of mine, the inimitable Chloe Weil, made an interesting comment to me the other evening: "I'm not sure energy can be stored" — or something to that effect.
This comment emerged from a conversation about music — and, in particular, the modes of writing about music. A film, she said, has a way of staying with her, leaving her in a mood, affecting her for a period before passing. Music, on the other hand, passes through her: she may feel its pulse during its play but once over, so is the energy. She doesn't store music.
I've since been obsessed with this idea. What does it mean to store energy? In what ways can we say that we do, in fact, store energy? And how do we store different kinds of energy?
I went directly to the things I know: my philosopher and writers. I have my little canon. And each member runs through me, pervades me to a greater or less degree, with greater or less intensity, in ever varying shapes, potentials, and possibilities. Can I say that I store the energy of these writers — that I store Nabokov's alliterative play, Deleuze's folds and proliferation, Burroughs' vaudevillian dreamspacescapes?
I like that image: they give me energy that I store, that I make use of to perpetuate the functioning of this body, this mind, this life I call me. Of course, storing suggests limited supply, that I can somehow use up Burroughs and be left with none of him. Maybe that's right. Maybe that's why I return to the same writers again and again, why I've read "The Western Lands" dozens of times and will, every few months, pick it up again and peruse, snatching up phrases and figures: I'm refueling my Burroughs power cell.
Then I thought of visual art and of the way Calder and Klee and Matthew Ritchie and David Shrigley have shaped me, have provided me fodder for living, ways of going, modes of being, inflections of my own metabolic propensity. Have I stored the energy of them? Is this just memory? And vice versa: is memory actually the storing of energy from and of the world? I like that quite a bit.
So what of film and song? A film, as Ms. Weil suggests, does have a way of crawling inside and fueling the viewer in some way. I know there are certain films that, after watching, I am exhausted, as if it depleted my energy store rather than fueling me.
Song is trickier. A song can totally take me over, thoroughly transpose my mood. And that feeling may linger a bit but it does tend to dissipate. And yet my body is fueled, in many ways, by Led Zeppelin, by Ween, by Broken Social Scene and Jethro Tull and Bob Dylan; by The Smiths and Miracle Legion and even Beach House. Each, like a philosopher or writer or visual artist, gives me a possible way of going — a vital energetic thrust of living.
This is to say, a song may do this — but rarely. But a body of work — a series of songs — begins to take on a life as it becomes a way of going, as it becomes a possible mode of living (for me, for others). And this possibility is potential energy — an energy we store in our lives and utilize to continue living.
Suddenly, the world is all energy being shared, ricocheted, stored, refined, wasted, multiplied. The world does not just abound with energy; it is energy. And each thing is a way of storing — and making — energy. Just as a rock baking in the sun maintains its warmth for a spell after the sun has set, I maintain Deleuze-Burroughs-Ween-Dylan-my son-my lovers as I enter my solitude. These are the things that fuel me, that along with Uni and pork chops and coffee and tequila, provide me the energy of life.
We store the world for a bit. But we are always gathering more sources of energy — just as we are always (hopefully) producing our own energy supply.