Sunday, February 21, 2010

There's a movie in my brain running backwards

If you pay attention, things will not necessarily become clear, but you will have paid attention, a good thing in itself. If you don't pay attention, reality will grab you the way that a cat grabs a mouse, and shake you, and drop you once it's bored. And you will brag to others that you were the cat, not the mouse, when all you have in common with the cat is boredom, except, unlike the cat, you have no way to appease the boredom. It feels like death is stalking you, the death-in-life for which bodily death is the only cure. (It is the only cure, right?) So your life is filled with boredom and worry, a feeling of being preyed on by invisible forces. You've got the jitters. You yawn. Stretch. Touch your chest, your neck, your belly. Unh. There is a big emptiness in you where god, or certainty, or a passed-down moral compass, used to be. From now on you'll have to rely on your conscience to set you straight.

You think to yourself, my conscience is pretty unreliable, too often it kicks in after I've acted, showing up as remorse. Philosophy doesn't help, at least not the way it's been taught. The law is an ass. Friends and families? They're just as wobbly as you. Cripes, it's a real struggle, this staying on the path of righteousness in the twenty-first century. You wind up making it up as you go along. Go with the flow, poot.

Boy oh boy. The problem is this: I hate the flow. The flow sucks. It's too big, too wide, too fast, too much of everything. Going with the flow may feel like surfing, or swimming, or even treading water, bobbing like an effin cork, but it's really drowning. And you know what's drowning? The self, the individual, the person-I-am-inside. It's going under, like a piece of garbage. Bye bye. Flotsam. Junk, wreckage. When Nietzsche said that the last Christian died on the cross, he wasn't lying, the noxious prick. If you want to understand humans, read E. O. Wilson on ants. If you want to understand Nietzsche, you should suffer a migraine. If you pay attention to pain, you will shrink to the size of your pain. And then everything will become clear. Just for a second. Blink.

For most of 2009, I was mad -- not angry, just crazy, uneven, outside myself, fighting the flow. I sat in my cottage and talked to the blue jays. I walked up the Appalachian Trail toward Wawayanda Mountain in the cold rain without a coat or hat. I wanted to get sick but I couldn't get sick. I wanted someone to see me and take pity on me, but there was no one around. I wanted to puke out the last thirteen years of my professional life, but nothing came up. Dry heaves. Sore ribs. Wet feet. The shivers. Confused birds. I got tired of using my head and wanted to live like an animal. My mind wouldn't let me. It kept reminding me that I was human, and couldn't escape my human destiny -- to employ language and suffer for it.

My friend T. found me last year. The wonders of the web. We walk together across old farm fields now become parkland, mindful of where we place each step. His native genius is to live consciously and to consider the movement of experience across the sensual world. T. reads slowly, trying to take in the meaning of each word, running his finger over the body of the text, willing ideas into life, his life, trying to put what he reads into his own words. He has a knack for tracing definitions to their origin. I look at him scan the far hills. He makes the effort to understand but it's been difficult -- he's had to renounce so much that passes for meaning in the contemporary world. He has had to stand against the flow. Buffeted, ransacked, at times abandoned.

When the world screams at you, you have to plug your ears and head for the hills. When the world screams at you, you can't understand a word it is saying. When the world screams at you, you must concentrate on the simplest of acts -- stirring broth, let's say, or picking out an old tune on the guitar -- to regain your footing. No matter where you go, it comes at you, the ceaseless flow, whipping against your pant-legs, pulling you down, always threatening to drown you. But we were taught to walk against the traffic -- at least that way you'll see the car that hits you -- so that's what we do.

No comments:

Post a Comment