Sunday, December 14, 2008

Not Another Word

Two viewers sit watching a television set on which a very old man with over-sized John-Denver glasses on is talking into the camera, looking a bit to the left of the viewers’ gaze, as if he himself is gazing at something too, maybe a clown doll tied to the top of the camera. The old man’s eyes are distorted and enlarged by the thick glass in his frames, and his mouth is slightly drooping to one side. From time to time a thin line of spittle collects and hangs and then drops from his mouth. His ears are large and stick out like wings. The viewers are watching the video and sometimes one of them makes some comments on it, but mostly they just watch. They are both sitting on fold-up chairs and are sitting very close to the television set, which is small, probably about the size of a microwave. The camera doesn’t move off of the old man’s face. It doesn’t go in for a close up. It doesn’t pan out to show a wider view of the room. There is nothing else on the screen but the man’s face. The viewers can see every wen and bleb and stray facial hair, every last wrinkle and scar and skin defect of his face. His eyebrows are thick and bristly. There is something malformed about his nose. It is bent to the side, incredibly crooked, and seems to be pockmarked with hundreds of tiny craters. Thin strands of long white hair are brushed back from his large, protrudent forehead. His eyes tend to blink a lot. The viewers watch and listen.

There is something arcane about this willingness to love, the ability to love itself has become old-fashioned, and to make oneself vulnerable in a public place is a sin, as the goldening tree leaves fall in a picric heap on the sidewalk and get trampled underfoot, rived and shredded and mashed into dust.

VIEWER 1—Listen. This guy sure says some odd things. It’s, kind of, well, eldritch at least. Listen.

We are often caught up in blandishments, suckered or drawn in, inveigled by the “good deal” or the “bargain buy” and it is all only our loneliness and thanatophobia that is driving us to search out for these things, these desires ruled by the market place, dictated to us by the all-puissant driving force of the economy. Buy, buy, buy. That is all there is to know. Then, and only then, do we not have to worry ourselves with these picayune concerns, these thoughts of death and fear, um, I may as well throw in trembling too. Ahem. So, here there is a chance, sometimes, um, here…well as in here…I mean to say, in the here and now we can always choose to be present, to be awake, to be, what? To be, roused, lifted in our spirits, winking like Groucho Marx behind a dumpster, it is, or would be, at these times that we can take lightly, or not at all, or extremely seriously, the impression made on us by the soft ululating glow of an old neon hotel sign’s letters blinking down the side of a rotting wrought iron fire escape, um, let’s see, the flickering light casting coalfrescent shadows on the mood-swinging bricks, and one thinks of choppy waters and the foam on the crests of waves, and life is tall and free again.

VIEWER 2—A neon sign cannot howl. And Coalfrescent? He doesn’t always make sense, does he?

But this feeling, this, shall I say, unadulterated blessing that seems to strike one down to one’s very core being, that kernel of truth hiding away buried so deep, so lost, gone, gone away, yes…ahem. Anyhow, this feeling is not something that can be described, no matter what one’s chosen mode of expression is, playing cards, creating limericks, tossing magazines into a fireplace, writing songs, playing a lute, driving a diesel-spewing 16-wheeler across this oh-so-capacious continent, or even filming the event, with just the right technique, with all of the latest and most advanced audio and visual equipment at one’s fingertips, cannot even come close to the real-life way of experiencing the event. One cannot smell quite the same scents in the same way that were drifting through the cool breeze then. And one will never know in just the same way the feeling of that breeze brushing against one’s visage, spoiling one’s hairdo, blowing a lapel of one’s dinner jacket up against the chin. It will never be the same. Nothing describing the event will ever touch the actual thing itself. This is the true artist’s constant struggle. Looking with another pair of eyes is no good. The camera cannot see anything the way one’s eye actually saw it. And any other pair of eyes looking upon that same scene, through the filter of the camera, will be again further removed from the event, and will only see what they desire to see, or what they are told to see, and nothing...ahem…I say nothing will ever be the same again. We must learn to give our gifts freely. There is not room for the buy-and-sell attitude of the marketplace in true art. The gift we give, love, must be given freely, unabashedly, without hope of being loved in return. We must learn to become generous, thoughtful of others…um, magnanimous even, and still beholden to our ideals we can turn the gift, the art’s heart’s purpose at last, into a blessing.

VIEWER 1—He talks in a gallimaufry. Confusing, but maybe you’re right. Maybe there is something there.

The gift is hanging. The gift is hung-up. The gift is fragile, and it will not stand up to the barbs of the world of commerce. We must learn to protect the gift. It is a prayer for the non-believers, a coupe for the downtrodden and belittled and heartbroken, a little less than the lees of a rugged faith that has gotten to be so routine, so blandly quotidian, that it is no good anymore, and that things tend to shrivel up and die at this point too, don’t forget. But the strength of the absurd still holds up, it still puckers its labia superfluos entafada and labium inferius, scrunching up its ergotrid, squeezing the philtrum into a thin rivulet. Yes, in the face of doom the absurd still holds sway, the irrational can still make good on the seemingly slipshod promises of yesterday’s prayers. Incorporeal things showing some truculence in the face of the mind-boggling nothingness of eternity, we are daffodils waiting out the clouds for a chance at sun.

VIEWER 1—Something about this makes sense. I’m just not sure what it is. Why does he have to talk like that? It’s like it’s all some riddle or something. Who speaks Latin anyway? What the hell?

VIEWER 2—It doesn’t matter. At least I don’t think it does. There is something very intriguing about this old guy. He seems very genuine.

VIEWER 1—Seems? Well, anyone can seem genuine.

VIEWER 2—No. It’s different with him. I don’t know what it is.

VIEWER 1—I know. I think I know. No. I know. I know that I know. That’s true. I think.

We all need to feel this connection, this binding of the flimsy stuff of ourselves with others, this bonding with other souls like our own. But this reaching-out cannot come from a selfish urge. It must come free of restraint, without any expectations, and it must be given without regard for personal welfare or gain. One must not feel compelled out of guilt, nor be afraid of being duped out of something by a conniving other. It is always better to err on the side of generosity. There will always be those who take advantage of these gestures of kindness. Let us not become one of them. Give freely or not at all.

VIEWER 1—Do you want half of my sandwich?

VIEWER 2—What kind?

VIEWER 1—Roast Beef on Rye.

VIEWER 2—What’s on it?

VIEWER 1—Pickles, onion, asparagus, regetabes. Some crude oil I think. Just a hint.

VIEWER 2—Nah. I Can’t stand regetabes. Thanks though.

VIEWER 1—You are very welcome. Very welcome. Wow. That felt good.

VIEWER 2—You’re just relieved that I didn’t take any of your sandwich. You didn’t really want to give it to me, did you? Weren’t you secretly hoping that I would refuse your offer? Come on.

VIEWER 1—No. I don’t think so. But one never knows, now does one?

Self-worship is the most detrimental piece of hysteria one could ever perform on one’s own psyche. It comes from that part of us that is wanting to be loved, the self-centered ego-driven appendage of our emotional makeup, and it leads towards nothing except forever insatiable desires and emptiness. We have to become more than this. One must take a chance, put oneself out there, quite literally in medias res, into the middle of things, the things of the world, with all of its shame and drudgery and broken dreams…um, ahem…and beauty too, yes…one must strive to put oneself in a position to give the gift of love with no thought of a return on their investment. It is the absurdity of this that is important. It is the ridiculousness of this that makes it worthwhile.

VIEWER 2—This is getting boring. And kind of redundant too. Hey, maybe I will have some of that sandwich.

VIEWER 1—Sorry. Too late. It’s gone. I fed it to a crocodile.

VIEWER 2—Damn. I guess I missed my chance.

VIEWER 1—Yep. Too bad. It was good too.

VIEWER 2—I bet.